Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Shakespeare Must Die not quite dead yet

Filmmakers Ing K. and Manit Sriwanichpoom of the banned Shakespeare Must Die submitted their letter of appeal and put on a Shakespeare-themed public protest today.

Among those taking part in the protest was Tanwarin Sukkapisit, whose Insects in the Backyard was the first Thai film to be banned under the country's new film law.

Receiving much coverage in the international press, Shakepeare Must Die (เชคสเปียร์ต้องตาย, Shakespeare Tong Tai) was banned earlier this month by the Film and Video Censorship Board, chaired by Police Major-General Anek Samplang. The board feared the politically charged film would "undermine the unity of the people in the country".

The synopsis is as follows:

A tale of politics and black magic, translated into Thai directly and exactly from William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, with some cinematic and Thai cultural adaptations, this “Shakespearean horror movie” takes place in two parallel worlds: inside the theatre, the world of the play about the ambitious and bloody general who becomes king by murder, and the ‘outside world’ in the contemporary lives of the (non-specific) country’s superstitious, megalomaniacal, and murderous dictator, known only as ‘Dear Leader’, and his scary high-society wife. Events in the twin worlds mirror and soon bleed into each other until they catastrophically collide, when the players must pay dearly for staging such a play in a society ruled by such a man. What were they thinking, to fight fear with art?

The film had received funding from the Thai Khem Kaeng (Strong Thailand) "creative economy" initiative of the Cultural Ministry's Office of Contemporary Art and Culture, but that was under the previous government of Abhisit Vejjajiva, now the leader of the opposition wing in Thai Parliament.

Although Ing K. says her film is not about Thai politics, there are images in the film's trailer that recall the 2010 political protests by the "red-shirt" movement, which supports the current government of Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted from power in a 2006 military coup. The tycoon populist leader has been a fugitive ever since, but is making moves to return to Thailand under a proposed amnesty that could also undermine the unity of the people of the country.

And need I say that the "Dear Leader" in Shakespeare Must Die somewhat physically resembles Thaksin?

Thailand's National Film Board will make a final decision on April 25 whether it will allow the release of Shakespeare Must Die, according to The Nation.

Update: There's more coverage in the Bangkok Post, with Manit threatening to defy the ban and an interview with Ing K.

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