Arbat (อาบัติ), a horror thriller centered on a teenage novice Buddhist monk, has been banned by censors, a day before the movie's press premiere.
According to various social-media and news sources, the Culture Ministry's film and media committee banned Arbat for four reasons: it shows the novice drinking alcohol, has scenes of novices fighting, depicts the novice having inappropriate contact with a female, and for a scene of the novice showing disrespect to the Buddha image.
The movie's trailer, released last month, caused a stir with a scene of the young monk touching the face of a girl, prompting Buddhist groups to demand that the film be banned. Thai Buddhist culture strictly prohibits physical contact between monks and females.
The debut feature by young director Kanittha Kwunyoo, Arbat was to be released in cinemas on Thursday, with a press and VIP premiere set Tuesday night.
According to the reports, the movie's studio, Sahamongkol Film International and producer Prachya Pinkaew's Baa-Ram-Ewe company, plan to appeal the decision.
The title Arbat actually means "offense" or "misdemeanor" and refers to acts committed against the Buddhist precepts.
“Viewers will understand the cause and the consequence of everything in the film," director Kanittha had told The Nation in an article last week. "Nothing is there just to stir up controversy. My father told me that if my intention was clear and I could make the film reach the goal I intended, then I should go for it. I haven’t touched on anything I don’t fully understand and I have made the film as a commitฌted Buddhist who still has faith in my religion.”
Starring Charlie Potjes as the central character, Arbat is about a young man who is forced into the monkhood by his father. He takes his vows and dons the monastic robes at a rural temple. Lonely and isolated, he grows close to a local girl in a relationship that would be innocent if the young man weren't a monk. Meanwhile, hidden secrets of the temple and of the young man's own life become revealed.
Also known as Charlie Trairat, the Arbat star is transitioning to more-mature roles after years of working as a child actor in such films as Fan Chan and Dorm.
The controversy over Arbat recalls another Sahamongkol film, Nak Prok (นาคปรก, a.k.a. Shadow of the Naga), which stirred opposition from Buddhist groups over its depiction of criminals dressed as monks brandishing guns and behaving violently. Nak Prok screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2008 and was shelved for a couple of years by Sahamongkol.
Nak Prok was eventually released after the adoption of a film-ratings law overseen by the Culture Ministry, which in some ways has more leeway than the old system of blanket censorship administered by the Royal Thai Police, but still has provisions in place for the outright banning of films.
Update: Prachatai has more coverage.