Thursday, November 11, 2010

Censors ban release of Insects in the Backyard

Well, the movie does have possibly the first use of a strap-on dildo in a Thai film intended for legal release. So there's that.

The debut feature of filmmaker Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, Insects in the Backyard has been banned from commercial release by Thailand's board of censors.

Tanwarin directs and stars in the comedy and social drama, portraying a transvestite widower father who has an increasingly dysfunctional relationship with his teenage daughter and son. The movie addresses sexuality and gender issues, and has scenes involving masturbation. The teenage characters become prostitutes and, while they are wearing their school uniforms, engage in various sexual acts with a variety of clients.

“The film’s content goes against public order or morality,” the board said.

Insects in the Backyard had its world premiere last month in the Dragons and Tigers Competition at the Vancouver International Film Festival. It screened twice at the ongoing World Film Festival of Bangkok.

At the question-and-answer session after last Saturday's screening, Tanwarin said she hoped to give the movie a local release fairly quickly, but that she would refuse to cut or censor any scenes.

She was working with Bioscope with plans to release it as part of the magazine's Indie Spirit project. Earlier this year, Bioscope and SF cinemas worked with Apichatpong Weerasethakul to release the Cannes Golden Palm winner Uncle Boonmee Who Recalled His Past Lives.

News of the ban was first reported on Bioscope's Facebook page.

Despite the explicit nature of the film, Tanwarin told The Nation that she did not expect the film to be banned. She had applied for the 20- rating, Thailand's most restrictive motion-picture rating, which limits films to audiences aged 20 and older.

“This film is not supposed to be viewed by those younger than that,” said Tanwarin, who has been making short films since 2001, many of them award-winning, and also works extensively in Thailand's film industry as a casting director and acting coach.

She said she would appeal and vowed not to cut any scenes to win approval.


  1. Two questions that can't be answered immediately: Is Tanwarin the new whipping boy now that Joei's status as an internationally acknowledged filmmaker can not be denied? And since Insects in the Backyard has already been screened outside Thailand, will that ban extend to distribution of the film outside of Thailand, as has been previously threatened by the new rules?

  2. Thanks for your comments Peter!

    I've been wondering the same things.

    I guess the censorship board feels they wouldn't be doing their jobs if they didn't ban at least one film.

    They didn't ban Uncle Boonmee for the disrobed monk or Mundane History for the male masturbation scene or the politically tinged Agrarian Utopia or even "erotic" Sin Sisters 2 or the Brown Sugar movies, so I guess the explicit Insects was chosen as the sacrificial lamb to the gods of morality and public order.

    I don't know if the law has the teeth to actually prevent filmmakers from exhibiting their banned movies overseas. Perhaps there are fines and jail time. I haven't seen a translation of the law, so I don't know how it works. I don't think anyone has a clue.

    The movie has already shown in Vancouver and at the World Film Fest right here in Bangkok, so what's the big deal?

    The ratings board is mainly concerned with commercial releases it seems.

    But there is no consistency, logic or transparency to their process. And it seems the rules change, depending on who's sitting on the board that particular day. If Tanwarin had submitted her film another day, it might have passed.

  3. Call me old fashioned, but wasn't the result fairly predictable, given the content? Was it really necessary to have sex scenes in school uniforms? Having said that I do recall a regular feature in the now defunct "Oz" magazine, a cartoon depicting a sexually provocative schoolgirl entitled "Jail Bait of the Month". What goes round...


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