Saturday, December 18, 2010

Kong Rithdee shows clips of censored films

The Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee has made a video in which he discusses film censorship in Thailand.

In his Reel Rithdee short, he shows clips from films that Thai authorities have deemed inappropriate.

There's a lot of footage from Tanwarin Sukkhapisit's so-far disapproved Insects in the Backyard. It was viewed by the Culture Ministry's National Film Board (including director Prachya Pinkaew) on Wednesday night but they have yet to come to a decision whether they will permit other Thai people to see it.

Kong also mentions Thunksa Pansittivorakul's This Area Is Under Quarantine, an explosive combination of explicit gay romance and documentary on Islamic separatism in southern Thailand. In that movie, Thunska shows clips from a banned VCD that contains footage of what's known as the Tak Bai incident, in which at least 85 people were killed. In the incident, Muslim men at a protest were rounded up by the Thai army, stripped of their shirts, ordered to lie face down on the ground, have their hands bound behind them and then stacked into trucks for a journey in which most of those who perished died by suffocation.

And a video about film censorship in Thailand wouldn't be complete without a mention of Syndromes and a Century, the 2006 film by Apichatpong Weerasethakul that received almost-universal critical acclaim worldwide, except in Thailand, where cultural minders issued personal insults at the filmmaker and ordered six cuts to the film, including scenes of doctors drinking whiskey in the hospital, a doctor kissing his girlfriend and a Buddhist monk playing guitar. Apichatpong went ahead and released the gutted corpse of a film, replacing the scenes snipped by censors with scratched black film leader.

Now, here's something worth noting: under the Byzantine bureaucracy that has been created under Thailand's new film law, none of these films I've mentioned so far are actually banned. They aren't!

Under the new motion-picture ratings system, "Ban" is an official category. It's that hidden seventh classification, following "P" for promote, "G" for general audiences, the 13+, 15+ and 18+ age-advisory ratings that no one pays attention to and the restricted 20- rating.

Insects is merely not yet permitted. And anyone who screens the film is liable to fines of 200,000 to 1 million baht and a year in jail. But it's not banned, honest!

Quarantine was submitted for screening at last year's World Film Festival of Bangkok, but the committee it was presented to couldn't give it a rating because it wasn't authorized to since the actual copyright holder wasn't the one asking for the rating. Or some-such nonsense that I still don't fully understand. So Quarantine couldn't be shown due to a technicality. But it's not banned.

Kong also shows clips from foreign films that have actually been given the "ban" rating, the French horror thriller Frontière(s) and Kevin Smith's sweet comedy Zack and Miri Make a Porno.

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