Category: Thai movies

Censor Must Die showing

A chance to see Ing k’s and Manit’s Censor Must Die playing November 5th-November 9th at the Friese-Greene Club on Sukhumvit 22 next to the Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel.  I liked it so much the first time I saw it I’m going again.  Info below about the film from the directors:


When fear rules and the truth gets buried, freedom must find a way.

 The Film Censorship Board, itself the star of CENSOR MUST DIE, has uniquely exempted the film from the censorship process. But no cinema in Thailand has found the guts to show this tragic-comic documentary on the banning of ‘Shakespeare Must Die’, a Thai horror adaptation of ‘Macbeth’.

Now The Friese-Greene Club, the new haven for Bangkok cinephiles in Sukhumvit soi 22 (BTS Phrompong), will screen CENSOR MUST DIE, directed by Ing K and produced by Manit Sriwanichpoom, once a day at 8 pm from 5th – 9th November 2013.

Please check for details and bookings on (reservation is recommended as the HD screening room has just 11 seats).

The screening on Friday 8 is followed by a Q & A with the director and the producer of the film.

Membership to the Friese-Greene Club is still free and easily obtained when you book online or at the club itself. The Friese-Greene Club is down the lane next to the Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel in Sukhumvit 22.

Intangible Cultural Heritage

Pravit Rojanaphruk’s editorial on Yingluck’s new bill against manipulating “intangible cultural heritage” to “offend the monarchy, religion, national security, as well as public order and morality,” whatever this means.  In this vein we shall proceed.

paradoxbox 280x300 - Intangible Cultural Heritage

As the World Film Festival Bangkok is coming to town in November, I am taking note of certain films  that stand out.  Unfortunately the film Paradoxocracy,  by Pen-ek Ratanaruang, will not be shown.  I will hunt this film down to see it.  From what I’ve read about it, it sounds like a film many people would relish with its unvarnished look at Thai democracy.  Ratanaruang barely squeaked by the censors with a few modifications (like deleting subtitles and sound) when speakers spoke too candidly.

What a shame.  Wise Kwai has more here and here.

If anyone, Pen-rek, (are you out there?) has any idea how I can see this film please email me at


Karaoke Girl, by Visra Vichit Vadakan

karaoke girl - Karaoke Girl, by Visra Vichit VadakanJust saw Karaoke Girl, by Visra Vichit Vadakan, a 2010 graduate from NYU’s film school, and recent bride of Chris Cox, a high priest in the Facebook Empire, and a whole lot richer than me.  I saw it at the House RCA theater and nearly froze to death along with, perhaps, four other people.  In the midst of Bangkok’s nightlife these Thai independent films are forever swimming up stream for customers.

This movie is a simple movie, part documentary, part fiction, about the many rural girls who go to Bangkok to practice the dark arts of classical antiquity to escape from poverty and support their families.  I wonder if there is anything new in her treatment of this common storyline.  The movie ends with her in full cabaret plumage, a Gatsbyish Eton crop, and karaoke lyrics, yet the sorrow remains.  One of the most powerful moments in the movie occurs when her middle class boyfriend subtly dismisses her as he talks with another middle class woman.

Wise Kwai has another review over at Thai Film Journal.

3822 1 300x168 - Karaoke Girl, by Visra Vichit VadakanVisra Vichit Vadakan
(from International Film Festival Rotterdam)

Below the words of the young woman who played the karaoke girl:

Sa’s Statement

I spent my childhood in the Thai countryside. When I was fifteen my parents and I decided that I would move to Bangkok to make money to send back to the family. I started working in a factory but I did not make enough money to send home. Eventually, I decided to work as a “girl of the night.”

I decided to do this because my family was very poor and my parents had a lot of debt. I didn’t think that there was any other way to make enough money to take care of them. I often thought about quitting my job but because I was able to give me and my family a better life, I could not.

One day, my friend introduced me to a director named Visra. She was interested in my life story and asked me to be in a documentary and also act in a film based on my life. After a lot of thought, I agreed to do this project with her.

Visra and I went back to the country with a film crew to document my father and mother and my life in the country. Visra became a part of my family. My parents were very happy to have a whole crew of people in our house living together like a big family. Even now, my parents still ask about Visra.

I had never acted in a film before. Before we shot, I rehearsed for two months. Oh my!! It was so hard. In the beginning, I was embarrassed and I wasn’t able to express myself. Eventually, I became more confident and was able to act and have fun with it.

What inspired me to quit my job is that I was able to express my true feelings through acting and singing in this film. This let me leave my past behind me.

I would like this film to touch the many people that watch it. I would like them to see that everyone can start over again. It’s never too late.


Soul of a Nation, BBC 1979

I have heard about this documentary before but have never had a chance to see it and came across it on youtube.  Narrated by the illustrious Sir John Guilgud, we see the mystical Thai monarchy in all its glory with its Brahmin and Buddhist rituals, the king’s service to villagers, and his support of the Thai army’s fight against the Communist insurgency.  I’ve never heard King Bhumibol speak in English so it was a delight to finally hear a voice to all of the images I’ve seen of him in Thailand.  At forty-seven, Queen Sirikit had lost none of her beauty.  There’s a natural humility in this Thai king that you can feel listening to him that is absent from the flat images of him around Thailand that project a more distant persona.

It’s cut off at the end which is unfortunate as I wanted to hear Bhumibol’s candid answer to a provocative question.

This is a must see for anyone interested in Thai culture.

A break for Shakespeare Must Die filmmakers

CMD Poster 212x300 - A break for Shakespeare Must Die filmmakers

Ing K & Manit Sriwanichpoom’s film Shakespeare Must Die, an adaptation of Macbeth serving as an allegory of Thaksin Shinawatra’s ruthless pursuit of power, was banned last year by the Thai Film Board.  The filmmaker’s then decided to chronicle their treatment by the authorities with Censor Must Die.  Shakespeare Must Die is a political film that was ironically partially funded by the government only to be later banned by the government.   It’s banning is much more about censorship within the Thai film community in general then it is about one film being denied an audience.  Theirs is but one voice among many that should be given time on the public stage.

There has been good news, alas.  Censor Must Die was not…censored.  Hopefully this is the beginning of more openness within the film industry here in Thailand.

I saw a screening and I highly recommend it for those interested in learning more about the process of vetting films in Thailand.  Quite memorable was hearing Ing K’s harrowing appeals to the Cultural Ministry.

There will be more from me about their work.

More information below from the filmmakers:

Censor Must Die is exempted from the film censorship process and has been given permission from the Film and Video Censorship Committee, by the power of the 2008 Royal Edict on Film and Video, Article 27(1)”, because “the producer of Censor Must Die made the film from events that really happened.”

“They killed Shakespeare, so they must die. Censor must die. Censor, not the censors, not the Film Board, but Censor the monstrous entity embedded in Thai society, a lumbering prehistoric beast with prejudices and a life of its own. It is this that must be slain by those among its victims who dare to challenge dinosaurs where angels fear to tread and reason does not exist.

When ‘Shakespeare Must Die’, a Thai adaptation of ‘Macbeth’, that supreme song of tyrannical rule, is banned by the Yingluck Shinawatra government for reasons of national security, producer Manit Sriwanichpoom begins an epic trek through the corridors of power to unban his Shakespearean horror movie; from the Cultural Ministry, that had funded and then banned his film, to the Senate and the Human Rights Commission, all the way to the Administrative Court where he is suing the government for abuse of power.

Wherever he went, amidst political upheaval in a land of fear, a camera followed him, into secret places long hidden from the sun, where witnesses are not welcome. The resulting cinema verite is the living story of a struggle for justice and human dignity, for the fundamental right to freedom of expression, which Thai filmmakers do not have.  This is cinematic democracy in action, in all its obscene and heartbreaking details; a dark record of events farcical enough to be enjoyed as a comedy.”


Sound and fury

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signifying very different ideas of where Thailand should be heading.  Nitirat (“law for the people”), a group of seven Thammasat University law lecturers, last October offered a few proposals to reform Holy Writ in Thailand including throwing out many of the judicial decisions put in place after the 2006 coup.  They also propose to amend the lese majeste law.

Under the current Thai constitution three sections are noteworthy:

Section 3. The sovereign power belongs to the Thai people.
Section 8. The King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated.
Section 30. All persons are equal before the law and shall enjoy equal protection under the law.

Section 30 is under the heading: Rights and Liberties of Thai People.  This point alone speaks volumes about the Thai concept of equality.  Like many things in Thailand that I simply can’t figure out, like how these three sections are reconciled in terms of power, I seek refuge in Dirty Deeds watching to the point of exhaustion, start to dream of my former life as a prince, and nod off into a very dark place. Thailand remains a mystery.

In light of traditional Thai perspectives of governance, Nitirat’s proposals are plain heresy with recommendations that the military be subordinated to civilians and that the power of the people reigns supreme.  A few of the more striking ideas:

•  The monarch has the duty to protect the Constitution.
•  A new head of state must swear an oath to abide by and to protect the Constitution.

The idea that a Thai monarch would be required to swear an oath to a constitution is an extremely radical idea in Thailand and deserves a wide discussion.  This idea caught me off guard I must say.  I don’t know who these professors are, but they are certainly bold.  Nitirat also recommended big changes to Thailand’s lese majeste law.

Needless to say, Nitirat’s proposals were met with a firestorm of abuse as the comment stream from ผู้จัดการ/Manager reveals where members of Nitirat were called “dogs,” “aliens,” and “not human” and demands that they be “thrown off helicopters,” “necklaced and burned alive,” “beheaded,” and “have their heads put on stakes outside Thammasat” were made.  There were calls for Ajarn Worachet to be executed.  General Prayuth publicly requested that members of Nitirat leave the country.

Such is the political discourse here.

Nitirat has received international support.

images 2 150x150 - Sound and fury

On the other side of the political spectrum a recent film, Shakespeare Must Die, was banned by the Thai Film Board as being too divisive.  This film is an adaptation of Macbeth and an allegory of  Thaksin’s pursuit of power and ultimate destruction of Thailand. The makers of this film argue in their comments that Thailand is living in “Shakespearean times” and that “there is a hunger for full-blooded, ferocious art that does not shy away from meaty issues of spiritual corruption, of right and wrong” yet could these artists stomach another Shakespearean adaptation from the opposite perspective?

Ing K, the director spoke to the Film Board speaking passionately about the role of art in a nation’s soul.  She has great insight in speaking about Western culture: “Why do we welcome only their junk culture and keep out their best?”  She continues, “Our country must survive and endure, and truly, it can only endure through virtue.”

Well put.

Thai filmmakers of a different political persuasion need to make a movie to counter this one and they both need to be shown to the public.  This would be a huge step forward for Thailand.