Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Yuthlert gives up hope on Fatherland

While opponents of film censorship in Thailand chalked up a rare victory with the recent banning and unbanning of the Thai-Cambodian border documentary Boundary, it appears the fight has been lost on another politically sensitive film, Yuthlert Sippapak's Deep South action-drama Fatherland (ปิตุภูมิ พรมแดนแห่งรัก, Pitupoom).

The Thai social media was buzzing yesterday after Yuthlert posted a cryptic message on Facebook, translated as: "It's certain now that Thais will not be able to watch this film. Thank you." He signed off with a frowny-face emoticon.

Yuthlert's comments led to stories in the Thai mass media, including Thai Rath and Prachachat.

According to a story in The Nation, it appears that the backer of Fatherland has gotten cold feet and decided not to release the drama, which deals with the complex issues of separatist violence in Thailand's Muslim Deep South. The matter is especially sensitive right now, due to embattled peace talks that have just started between the Thai government and a small faction of the insurgents.

Long in the works, production was wrapped on Fatherland last August. Trailers surfaced (embedded below) and posters were made. It was penciled in for release last December, but never materialized.

Fatherland was highly anticipated, thanks to its popular stars, leading man Ananda Everingham, plus actor "Wier" Sukolwat Kanaret and Pee Mak Phra Khanong starlet "Mai" Davika Hoorne. Appetites were further whetted with slick-looking production stills.

The film, which captures the problems in southern Thailand through the eyes of two police officers and a female Muslim scholar, looked to be yet another serious shift for Yuthlert, a prolific director who is famous for his frequent genre-jumping but is mainly known for his action and horror comedies, Killer Tattoo and the Buppha Ratree series. His more recent films, the hitman films Saturday Killer and Friday Killer, have been more serious in tone while still retaining many comedic elements and starring noted comedians.

The case of Fatherland not being released is made murky by the fact that it hasn't been submitted to the censorship board for rating. So it's not banned, officially. Instead, it appears to be a case of self-censorship by the film's backers who fear it's not liable to be approved for release because it deals with issues that are too politically sensitive.

The Nation story included comments by film critic and blogger Wiwat Lertwiwatwongsa, better known as Filmsick:

"This is a society that just doesn’t want to debate. Something is missing in our [social] structure."

“Maybe they just want to ‘play safe’ by not screening it,” he said, adding that he had heard some movie theatres were reportedly reluctant as well.

“In the end it has crippled [society], because now everyone engages in self-censorship, which is an indicator that we are not free. This a problem that is very difficult to solve.”

Read the rest of the article for more comments.

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