Friday, August 16, 2013

Censor Must Die won't be censored

Here's a news release from Manit Sriwanichpoom, producer of the banned film Shakespeare Must Die (เชคสเปียร์ต้องตาย, Shakespeare Tong Tai) and the companion documentary Censor Must Die (เซ็นเซอร์ต้องตาย), which chronicles his and his wife and director Ing K.'s exhaustive efforts to appeal against the ban.

This very day, even as the online community is seething over the government’s increasingly intense scrutiny and persecution of social media users, even as the police is requesting co-operation from Line, the popular smartphone chat app, to let them monitor its users to prevent threats to national security, we have unbelievable good news for freedom of expression in Thailand from the most unlikely quarter: the Film Censors.

Last year the Film Censorship Committee and the National Film Board banned the horror film, Shakespeare Must Die, a Thai adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  Accordingly, since we are filmmakers, we recorded the whole banning process and our fight against the ban, from the Censors’ Office to the Film Board, to the National Human Rights Commission and the Senate House Committee on Human Rights, all the way to the Administrative Court. This has resulted in the documentary Censor Must Die.

Recently, as required by law, this new film was submitted to the censors. This morning we received a letter by post, document # Ministry of Culture 0508.2/6058 (Thai original and English translation in the attached files) from the Department of Cultural Promotion to inform the result of their deliberation: “Censor Must Die is exempted from the film censorship process and has been given permission from the Film and Video Censorship Committee, by the power of the 2008 Royal Edict on Film and Video, Article 27(1)”, because “the producer of Censor Must Die made the film from events that really happened.”

Furthermore, due to this exemption from censorship, Censor Must Die has not been rated and may be seen by anyone of any age.

For us, the filmmakers, this is like winning the lottery. We can’t stop smiling. It’s a great relief that we won’t have to repeat the arduous process of appeal that we went through and are still going through with Shakespeare Must Die. We must thank the censors for their brilliant broadmindedness.  I hope this precedence-setting decision will help to bring a more optimistic future for Thai cinema.

In the case of Shakespeare Must Die, both the National Human Rights Commission and the Senate House Human Rights Committee have concluded that the 2008 film law should be amended. The NHRC further recommends that the ban on the film should be lifted, as the ban infringed our right to freedom of expression. The case against the Censors and the Film Board is progressing in Administrative Court.


Manit Sriwanichpoom


Shakespeare Must Die and Censor Must Die

The reference to the "smartphone chat app" is in regard to the Royal Thai Police moves to monitor Line.

The news that Censor Must Die won't be censored and that it's apparently exempt from the ratings process because it's "made from events that really happened" is interesting and might perhaps encourage other documentary filmmakers in Thailand.

But there's not yet any word of when Censor Must Die might be shown in cinemas, which might be difficult given the recent experience of other politically sensitive documentaries, Paradoxocracy by Pen-ek Ratanaruang and Pasakorn Pramoolwong and Boundary by Nontawat Numbenchapol, which were both passed after changes were ordered by censors, but then ran into problems during their theatrical release.

The Hollywood Reporter has more on Censors [sic] Must Die.

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