Saturday, February 28, 2009

New culture minister on film ratings, National Film Archive's status

With a Thai government that looks like it might take hold and last longer than just a few months, there's a new culture minister, Teera Slukpetch, a Democrat from Trat. He's had a chance to get down to work, approving two measures that could well prove historic for Thai cinema.

Kong Rithdee in Friday's Bangkok Post relays the news that not only is Teera overseeing the implementation of Thailand's forthcoming motion-picture ratings system, replacing the 1930 censorship law, he's also signed off on a measure that raises the National Film Archive to the level of a public organization.

Here's more from the article (cache):

He didn't hesitate to disapprove of censorship "as it was practised before", yet he acknowledged the fact that the new Film Act contains a clause that still gives the state the power to ban films from showing in Thailand if they are considered offensive.

"In the old system, the committee could order filmmakers to cut scenes from their movies, and to me that's not the right way. It wasn't good to the creative people," said the minister. "In the new law ... the rating system serves as a guideline, so filmmakers can apply for permission by sticking to one of the ratings. The new law also deems that the rating committee be made up of representatives from the industry, so it's not just the officers making the decision."


"The ban order is in place, yes, but there are many other steps before that," said Mr Teera. "And if the filmmaker believes the verdict is not fair, he can appeal to the national film board, chaired by the Prime Minister himself, or he can go all the way to put the case before the court. I insist that the idea is to give more freedom to artists. I followed the recent case of the Thai film [Syndromes and a Century] that had problems with the censors in Thailand even though it was famous abroad, and I don't wish to see that happen again."

It may not be easy to shake loose the popular perception that the ministry's priority is restricting and not encouraging. "Our job is not to find fault, but to monitor," he said.

His statement about Syndromes and a Century could be taken two ways -- does it mean that all Thai films will have to be submitted to censors before they are shipped to overseas fests, and then cut or banned if there's anything objectionable -- the "Thailand cut" would be the only version -- or will filmmakers be able to show what they want, as long as it's within the restrictions of the ratings system?

There's still a lot of confusion about how the film ratings will work in practice -- the rules about what can be in a film and what can't are quite complex.

Still, Teera sounds like a perfectly level-headed and fair kind of guy. Is he for real? Even his dislike for Thais who dye their hair blond comes across as reasonable. Maybe he'll stick around for a bit and get some real work done and actually promote Thai culture rather than try to control it. I just hope he steers clear of measures that make his ministry a laughing stock.

Teera's endorsement of the new structure for the National Film Archive is encouraging. It means the Archive will have fewer bureaucratic hoops to jump through as it seeks to increase its budget and get down to the important work of preserving Thai films -- and Thai culture.

1 comment:

  1. That is fantastic news for Dome and everyone who contributes to the work of the Film Archive. I'm so glad it finally happened.


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