Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Review: Censor Must Die

  • Directed by Ing K.
  • Screened on June 1, 2013 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5

Censors may not get past the title of the latest documentary by provocative filmmakers Ing K. and Manit Sriwanichpoom.

Nonetheless, Censor Must Die (เซ็นเซอร์ต้องตาย) is a comprehensive look at the controversial duo's fight to screen their Macbeth adaptation Shakespeare Must Die. It's been banned by censors who feared was too divisive and posed a threat to national security.

At 2.5 hours, Censor Must Die is an exhaustive and instructive behind-the-scenes look at a brand-new bureaucracy, which was created by the Culture Ministry to support the new film-ratings system that came into effect in 2009. While new law did away with the broad brush of old-fashioned censorship, instead offering age advisories to audiences, it retained a vestige of the old authoritarian ways – the provision to outright ban a film.

Shakespeare was hit with the ban because of politics, though no one will come right out and admit it. It's the story of a theater troupe attempting to stage Macbeth. They run into conflict with the megalomaniacal leader of their fictional land. He is widely assumed to resemble Thailand's ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The film had been funded by the Culture Ministry under a scheme of the government that eventually replaced the junta that threw out Thaksin. But by the time Shakespeare Must Die got around to be submitted to censors, Thaksin's sister had been swept into power by the populist "red shirt" movement.

Shakespeare has been blocked at every step of the process, even though the bureaucrats applaud the film itself and its translation of the Bard's words.

Ing K.'s camera mainly follows Manit around as he shuffles from office to office and plays the waiting game. Eventually, the paper trail takes them to the Culture Ministry, a bizarre place where for some reason people are sitting around in the lobby, waiting their turn for something. It's like they are in a public hospital or a bus station.

As a surreal, Orwellian aside, there's MiniCult video playing in the lobby, which instructs Thais how to properly sit.

At one point, Manit and Ing K. are riding in their car and are caught in a traffic jam. This gives them time to discuss their case. And, coincidentally, they happen to be stuck in the roundabout at Democracy Monument, which symbolizes the Thai Constitution.

At another point, the film switches to audio of Ing K. testifying before a Senate sub-committee. She breaks down into tears, bawling as she wonders why it's only filmmakers who are persecuted and denied the freedom of speech that's accorded under the Constitution.

Although not yet cleared for theatrical release, Censor Must Die was shown on June 1 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center as part of the Freedom on Film seminar organized by the Free Thai Cinema Movement.

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1 comment:

  1. There’s a lot of self-censorship. The censors, just because they’re censors, it doesn’t mean they don’t feel the fear. People are scared of Thaksin like he’s a boogeyman. Like he’s hardly a human anymore. If he’s going to come after anyone, surely it would be the filmmakers, not the censors.


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