Yet another Thai cinematic production has won over a festival jury abroad, despite struggling against film censors at home.Shakespeare Must Die (2012), an allegory of Thailand’s recent political struggles critiquing the legacy of Thaksin Shinawatra, the deposed prime minister, was awarded two prizes at Lebanon’s inaugural Tripoli International Film Festival, held in November, which was organized around the theme of “cultural resistance.”
Jurors cited the film’s “courageous and aesthetically radical approach providing an incisive comment on power” in naming it a co-winner of the event’s Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema Award for the best Asian feature. The film, which also took Tripoli’s grand prize for a fiction feature, was produced by conceptual photographer Manit Sriwanichpoom and directed by his wife, Ing Kanjanavanit, also known as Ing K.
“This is a wonderful boost to our morale, giving us great encouragement in our continuing fight to free our film and change the film censorship law in Thailand,” the filmmakers announced on the website of the production, which is a Thai-language adaptation of William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth.
Thailand’s Film and Video Consideration Committee banned the movie as a threat to public order shortly after its completion in 2012. The ban has meant that only a handful of Thais have ever seen the picture, prompting the filmmakers to file a suit against the censorship committee, which as part of the Ministry of Culture was nominally chaired by Thailand’s prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, the younger sister of Thaksin.
Ing and Manit have also fought back by producing a follow-up documentary titled The Censors Must Die (2013), which chronicles their unrelenting struggles against the ban. In August, the Committee declared that title exempt from censorship and ratings review because it is “based on events that really happened.” However, local cinemas have quietly shunned the new production, limiting its audience to small screenings, for instance as a weeklong showing held in a 14-seat, membership-only cinema club.
Thailand’s 77-year old film-censorship law was revised in 2008 under public pressure following a campaign sparked in part by cuts to six scenes in Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Syndromes and a Century (2006). Advocates of free speech charge that this revision to the law represents only a small improvement, since censors can still ban a production. Shakespeare Must Die became the second film to be banned under the new process; the first was Tanwarin Sukkhapisit’s sexually explicit Insects in the Backyard in 2010.
Ing’s previous film, Citizen Juling (2008), explores the tensions and ambiguities of the separatist conflict in Thailand’s southernmost provinces. It was the first documentary ever to be named best picture at the Thailand National Film Awards.
Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved parliament in early December after weeks of sometimes violent protests in Bangkok by opponents of her family’s involvement in politics. Outside the capital, however, the Shinawatras enjoy strong support, with their various parties winning the largest share of the vote in the previous five general elections.

Brian Mertens is Thailand desk editor for ArtAsiaPacific.

And The winner are...



La première édition du Festival International du film de Tripoli a proclamé son palmarès mardi soir au Metropolis de  Beyrouth. Consacré à la Résistance Culturelle, le festival a donc primé : en fiction, grand prix à Shakespeare must die, Ing K., une adaptation thaïlandaise révolutionnaire de Macbeth ; prix spécial du Jury à Ji-seul de O Muel, film coréen qui propose un brillant traitement plastique d’un épisode méconnu de la guerre en 1948 ; prix du jury documentaire à Il se peut que la beauté ait renforcé notre révolution – Masao Adachi de Philippe Grandrieux, qui offre le parcours d’une vie consacrée à l’art comme expression de la résistance ; mention spéciale à Babylon de Youssef Chebbi, Ismaël, Ala Eddine Slim pour ce travail audacieux sur un grand sujet de notre temps : des hommes et des femmes déportés par la violence de la guerre . Prix NETPAC ex-aequo : Liberta, de Kan Lume, pour avoir montré comment la résistance culturelle aborigène offre une guérison et un espoir spirituels et pour le mariage habile de différentes formes documentaires et sa forme narrative improvisée ; Shakespeare must die  de Ing K. pour son adaptation courageuse et esthétiquement radicale d’un classique de la littérature qui permet un commentaire incisif du pouvoir dans un temps et lieu différent.
Ce choix est engagé et humaniste, deux termes qui dans ce pays semblent avoir été vidés de leur sens.

Omstreden film ‘Censor must die’ mag in Thailand



Opmerkelijk nieuws van het filmfront: de omstreden film ‘Censor must die’ is door de filmkeuring gekomen en mag gewoon in de Thaise bioscopen worden vertoond, zo meldt Hollywood reporter.
De film is een reactie van regisseuse Ing K en haar man Manit Sriwanichpoom, een vooraanstaand kunstfotograaf, op de censuur van hun vorig jaar verbannen film Shakespeare Must Die. Hierin was het bekende toneelstuk Macbeth van William Shakespeare omgeschreven tot een aanklacht tegen de Thaise staat. Die film mocht niet worden vertoond.

'Censor must die’ mag

Dat Censors Must Die werd goedgekeurd heeft overigens weinig te maken met coulance van de censoren, maar veel eerder met een technische kwestie. De filmmakers laten weten een brief van het ministerie van culturele promotie te hebben ontvangen met de ware reden. “De film is niet door de censors bekeken omdat deze historische feiten bevat. Zodoende is de film niet gekeurd en mag deze aan kijkers van alle leeftijden worden getoond.”

Zware censuur van films

De Thaise filmcensors zijn zeer critisch, zeker als het gaat om politieke gevoelige films. Zo werd eerder al de film Boundary verboden. De film toont hoe een soldaat deelnam aan de opstand in 2010 van de redshirts (de bezetting van het hoofdstedelijk zakelijk centrum die met veel geweld werd neergeslagen). Vervolgens zien we hoe de soldaat terugkeert naar zijn dorp aan de grens met Cambodja, een gebied waar Thailand en het buurland al jaren om in conflict zijn. Nog geen twee dagen later werd inees de film toch goedgekeurd door weer een andere screeningscommissie.
In juni werd de vooraanstaande regisseur Pen-ek Ratanaruang gesommeerd zijn film Paradoxocracy aan te passen. De documentaire bevatte politiek gevoelige interviews met kritische opmerkingen over de democratie en vrijheid van meningsuiting in Thailand.
Uiteindelijk wist de filmmaker de censoren zover te krijgen dat zij akkoord gingen met het verwijderen van alleen de ondertiteling en het geluid in de betreffende scènes. Het grappige is dat de door deze actie de censors zelf aangaven wel deel van de film was gecensureerd.

Freedom on the big screen


Thai filmmakers seek changes in the law that keeps censors in control of what can be shown in theatres



Censorship has been intertwined with the Thai film industry since moving pictures were invented. The first film bill, introduced in 1930, remained in place until well into this century and was replaced by the Film and Video Act in 2008. While the new law introduced the long-awaited ratings system, it also retained Article 29, which empowers censors to ban films.

In the five years since its enactment, two Thai films - Tanwarin Sukkhapisit's "Insects in the Backyard" and "Shakespeare Must Die" by Manit Sriwanichpoom and Ing Kanjanavanit - have been banned outright. Earlier this year, the censors blocked "Fah Tam Phaendin Soong" ("Boundary") though they did end up passing it with an 18+ rating after its director, Nontawat Numbenchapol, agreed to make small changes.

Filmmakers have, of course, protested the bans and the reasoning behind them. "Insects" was blocked because of explicit sexual scenes and ideas that censors feared might trigger bad behaviour in youths. "Shakespeare", an adaptation of "Macbeth", was blocked on the grounds that it would harm national security by causing division in Thai society. "Boundary", on the other hand, follows a young soldier as he visits his home in the disputed area on the border between Thailand and Cambodia.

Those same filmmakers, led by award-winning director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, got together again last Saturday to discuss the ongoing censorship problems and brainstorm on ways to fix the deadlock in the Film and Video Act.

The discussion started with the screening of the documentary "Censor Must Die" by Manit and Ing K. It relates their struggle with the censorship bureaucracy from the moment their film "Shakespeare Must Die" was submitted for a rating, through its ban and their fight in appealing the decision and suing both the censors and the National Film Board.

Tanwarin is also suing the film board through the Administrative Court.

"I'm waiting for the court verdict. No matter what the verdict will be, I believe it will set a new standard for the people who enforce the law," says Weerasak Kowsurat, the secretary of the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand, adding that the results are expected next year.

Apichatpong says the problems with "Boundary" reminded him of his experiences with "Sang Sattawat" ("Syndromes and a Century"). Under the regulations of the 1930 Film Act, the censors demanded that six scenes from the 2006 film be cut before it could be shown commercially. The director refused to cut the film and withdrew it from domestic release. He later agreed to a limited showing in Bangkok where the cut scenes were replaced with a black screen to protest and inform the public about the issues of censorship.

Apichatpong's disgust led him to form the Free Thai Cinema movement, though this has not been active in recent years.

"I believe many filmmakers think it's better not to get involved with the members of the censorship board. But this 'it's not our business' attitude simply reflects a lack of interest for the society we are living in," says Apichatpong, who is determined to revive his movement. He is preparing a letter to the Culture Ministry detailing the problems and also intends working towards adjusting or abrogating the Film and Video Act.

However, amending an article that authorises both the censorship and the film boards to cut or ban any film that might go against public order and morality involves a complicated legislation process and none of the filmmakers are experts in this field. Weerasak says that the movement needs to learn more about the process so that they will know how to pitch their demand to the right person at the right time.

The federation's president Visute Poolvoralaks points out that the movement will find it hard to succeed, as they are a small group with no real powers. Resolving the problem, he adds, needs a powerful incident that will serve to rally the public into protesting.

"The government doesn't care what a small group of filmmakers is saying but once it affects the public and people start yelling, they will pay attention," says Visute.

"Personally, I disagree with banning films because we have an adequate rating system. It's not the Film and Video Act itself that causes the problems but the people who enforce the law," he adds.

"Our demands that they revoke the ban doesn't mean that we want complete freedom in making any type of movie. I'm not against banning films that show, for example, child molestation or sex with animals, which is the norm in most countries. But there shouldn't be bans based on political issues like we have here," says Apichatpong.

Another bone of contention is the lack of consistency on the part of the censors and their failure to give clear reasons for their judgements. The board's apparent determination to act as society's guardian enrages filmmakers, who spend time and money to complete their films only to have them banned based on the judgement of seven people.

The board is made up of four representatives from different government sectors, depending on a film's content, and three from the film industry. But how the board is chosen seems to have no basis in qualifications for the job, with members preferring to rely on the same old faces from the 1930 Film Act. Filmmakers Prachya Pinkaew and Nonzee Nimibutr would be ideal candidates, and they sat on the National Film Board in the past.

"They have the law to tell them what we can do legally," Apichatpong notes. "Their duty should thus be limited to recommending the appropriate rating for a particular movie.

"Thailand is still a underdeveloped country and our government is determined to control the nation's idealistic image, which includes political reconciliation. When a filmmaker disagrees with the procedures and tries to echo the real situation through his work, the censor doesn't hesitate to ban it," he says.

"Personally I disagree that we should even be in reconciliation mode. It would be naive to say that we or our movies don't take sides. What's wrong with making anti- or pro-Thaksin movies? Surely we have the right to make films that express our ideas and our opinions."

The Free Thai Cinema movement's letter to the Ministry of Culture will request that the government body evaluates and adjusts the Film Act. It will also ask that Article 29 be revoked and question the Film and Video Censorship standards as well as the transparency in how the censorship jury is chosen.

Trying to make sense of the censors.



Good news for "Censor Must Die"


Manit Sriwanichpoom, producer of the banned film "Shakespeare Must Die", has some good news for once - his followup film "Censor Must Die" will not be censored.

A documentary that chronicles his and his wife and co-director Ing K's struggles to appeal against the banning of "Shakespeare Must Die", "Censor Must Die" was submitted to the Film and Video Censorship Committee as required by law.

"This morning we received a letter by post from the Department of Cultural Promotion to inform us of the result of their deliberation, 'Censor Must Die is exempted from the film censorship process'," Manit reports in a press release.

Furthermore, "Censor Must Die" is not subject to the ratings process because the film is made from "events that really happened", he said.

Up receiving the news, Manit said he felt like hitting the lottery jackpot.

"We can't stop smiling. It's a great relief," he said, praising the decision on his documentary.

However, he and Ing K will still fight on in the case of their "horror film" adaptation of "Macbeth", "Shakespeare Must Die", and the matter is now with the Administrative Court.

Thai Documentary ‘Censors Must Die’ Gets Screening Approval From State Censorship Board


Made by Thai directors Ing K and Manit Sriwanichpoom, the film critiques the country's often unpredictable and inconsistent film censorship system.

Who says film censors don’t have a sense of humor?

Thailand’s film censorship board has approved the release of Censors Must Die, a local documentary made to lampoon and expose the bureaucratic irrationalities of the censorship board itself.

Directed by Thai filmmaker Ing K and her husband Manit Sriwanichpoom, one of Thailand’s leading art photographers, the documentary was made in response to the censors’ decision last year to ban their feature film Shakespeare Must Die, a Thai-language adaptation of Macbeth with contemporary political shadings. The new film follows K and Manit’s exhausting attempts to appeal the ruling and find help from human rights organizations -- and their last-resort decision to sue the censorship board for financial damages in a local administrative court.

So far, their myriad efforts to bring Shakespeare Must Die to Thai audiences have been fruitless, but in all-too-fitting irony, the much more aggressively critical project – with a title that seems to call for the censors’ deaths, no less – has gotten the green light.
In a statement provided to local newspaper the Bangkok Post, the directors said: "As required by law, this new film was submitted to the censors. We received a letter by post from the Ministry of Culture's Department of Cultural Promotion to inform us of the result of their deliberation: Censors Must Die is exempt from the film censorship process and has been given permission because the film [was made] from events that really happened. Furthermore, due to this exemption from censorship, Censors Must Die has not been rated and may be seen by anyone of any age." 

What the ruling might mean for future documentaries that purport to depict real life events -- and how the body defines such a category -- is not yet clear. 

It’s been an erratic year for Thailand’s censorship board. In April, the body banned director Nontawat Numbenchapol’s film Boundary, calling it "a threat to national security and international relations.” The film focuses on a soldier who took part in the government crackdown on the “red shirt” political upheaval in Bangkok in 2010 and follows him to his hometown along the Thailand-Cambodia border, an area of ongoing dispute between the two countries.

But two days later, the censorship board abruptly reversed course, stating that the ruling had been a “technical mistake,” as the verdict was issued by a subcommittee that lacks the authority to make such judgments. The film was then approved and rated for audiences of 18 years and above.

In June, leading Thai director Pen-ek Ratanaruang was required by the board to significantly alter his political documentary, Paradoxocracy. After the body requested that several scenes of interviews with political experts be cut, the director opted to black-out the subtitles and silence the dialog in the sequences -- instead of excising them entirely -- so audiences would be aware that his hand was forced to make changes. The effect resulted in several segments of uneasy silence in the film, where audiences were left to ponder the fact that something was being said that their government didn’t want them to hear. Pen-ek called the blacked-out subtitles “scars,” and said the response during local screenings was mixed, with many local audiences laughing nervously.