Film fraternity condemns imposed ban on film about Thai south

Bangkok (The Nation/ANN) - The fact that a film about the deep South will most likely not be screened in Thailand has sparked speculation about the real reasons and many in the country's film industry agree that this is yet another setback for a society already plagued with censorship.

"This is a society that just doesn't want to debate. Something is missing in our [social] structure," film critic and blogger Wiwat "Film Sick" Lertwiwatwongsa said.

Yuthlert Sippapak, director of Pitupoom (Fatherland), said on his Facebook page yesterday that the film, starring famous actors such as Ananda Everingham, Sukolwat Kanaret and Davika Hoorne, was most likely to not be shown in Thailand despite initially being scheduled for release in December.

"It's certain now that Thais will not be able to watch this film. Thank you," Yuthlert wrote on his Facebook timeline, but did not elaborate and was not available to provide details as of press time. The film sees problems in the deep South primarily through the eyes of two police officers and a female Muslim scholar.

Wiwat admitted the film may be politically sensitive and that could be why the financier chose not to screen it. "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."

Kriengsak Silakong, director of the World Film Festival of Bangkok, said the public should try to fight this sort of self-censorship.

"Everybody should try to fight this. Nobody should retreat [into accepting self-censorship]. If we don't do it now we will suffer this 'disease' for another decade and be fickle on making decisions on this or that [supposedly sensitive] issue. This is the Thai society's weakness. Parents often block their children from doing many things," he said, adding that things in Thailand were similar to the situation in Iran.

Kriengsak said the financier was probably "totally surprised or shocked" by the end result of the film and decided to stop it being screened.

Manit Sriwanichpoom, an independent film-maker and co-director of the film Shakespeare Must Die, which was also banned, speculated that the film's financier and producer might be under political pressure, adding that this was "bizarre" as so much money and time had gone into making the film.

"Or is it that [the government] does not want the film to be shown now as they are engaged in peace talks [with separatists] and do not want criticism on whether the talks are genuine or not? Did someone [in the government] ask for it to not be released?"

However, no matter what the truth is, Manit also agreed it did not bode well for Thailand.

"In a society which is not truly free, people's freedom gets curtailed," he said, adding that this was the worst thing that could happen to any film director.

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