Ban on ‘divisive’ Shakespeare film upheld

national August 12, 2017 01:00

By THE NATION

The Administrative Court yesterday rejected a petition by the producer and director of a controversial feature film against a ban imposed by the Film and Video Censorship Committee five years ago.



“Shakespeare Must Die” has been banned from being screened in Thailand on the grounds that the movie's political content might cause divisiveness among people in the country.

The film, directed by Smanrat “Ing K” Kanjanavanich and produced by Manit Sriwanichpoom, is an adaptation of “Macbeth”, a tragedy by English writer William Shakespeare. 

It is set in parallel stories, depicting both an ambitious general who becomes king through murder, and another world in which the country’s leader believes in superstitious, megalomaniac and murderous dictatorship. He is known only as ‘Dear Leader’ and has a scary, high-society wife.

The Administrative Court ruled that even though the story is fictional, the movie’s content might cause disunity among people. It contains scenes based on a photograph from Bangkok’s 1976 student uprising and violent scenes from red-shirt demonstrations.

Manit said the plaintiffs would appeal the court’s verdict. “I feel like we didn’t get justice,” he said.

The film was made with the help of the Thai Kem Kaeng (Strong Thailand) fund under the Cultural Ministry's Office of Contemporary Art and Culture during the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration. The ban was imposed during the Yingluck Shinawatra government’s tenure. 

 Manit then made a follow-up documentary “Censor Must Die”, in which he and Ing K chronicled their struggle to appeal the ban on “Shakespeare Must Die”.

Ing K previously co-directed the critically acclaimed documentary “Citizen Juling”, based on the true story of a teacher being beaten to death in southern Thailand. Her earlier controversial film, “My Teacher Eats Biscuits”, was not publicly released in Thailand.

“Shakespeare Must Die” is the second Thai movie to be banned from commercial release under the Film Act of 2008. 

The first, “Insects in the Backyard” by director Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, was banned in 2010 on the grounds that it infringed good public morals through its many scenes of sexual intercourse and prostitution. 

Tanwarin then sought an Administrative Court order to revoke the ban. 

In 2015, the court ruled that the film’s content did not contradict good morals but that a three-second scene containing “pornographic content” should be banned. 

If the scene in question was cut, the film could be screened with a 20+ audience rating, the court ruled.