April 7, 2009

Toranong Srichua on Thai film censorship

Here's a quote that really struck me, from veteran Thai filmmaker Toranong Srichua, director of the forthcoming controversial disaster epic Tsunami 2022:

ในวงการหนังบ้านเราต้องห้ามตัวละครมีเซ็กซ์ ห้ามตัวละครพูดเรื่องการเมือง ห้ามตัวละครพูดเรื่องศาสนา ห้ามตัวละครพูดเรื่องสถาบัน ห้ามตัวละครค้ายาเสพติด คุณห้ามๆ อย่างนี้ไง ตัวละครถึงเป็นผี เป็นตัวตลก ซึ่งมันเป็นตัวละครที่ไม่มีอยู่ในโลก แต่มันวิ่งอยู่ในวงการหนังไทยได้

"In the Thai film industry, characters are forbidden to have sex, forbidden to discuss politics, forbidden to discuss religion, forbidden to discuss the monarchy, forbidden to sell drugs. Because you forbid all these things, all the characters are ghosts and clowns. Neither exist in the real world, and yet they run wild in Thai films."

The translation is mine. Quoted from an interview in the April 2009 issue of Bioscope; previously posted on Poakpong.com.


  1. Some films seen to get away with it. Off the top of my head,จันดารา (2001)was pretty steamy.
    And in ส้ม แบงค์ มือใหม่หัดขาย (2003)the main characters were involved in drug dealing.

  2. There have been some, yes.

    The immediate context of this quote is film industry under the new Film Act, passed in 2007. It empowered the implementation Thailand's first ratings system, which will take effect next month.

    It was the great hope of Thai filmmakers that the new law would do away with censorship -- that introducing ratings would remove the need to cut everything down to its least offensive.

    Unfortunately, this hasn't been the case, and it has only solidified the rules of what is and isn't acceptable, and apparently made the censors all the more scissor-happy.

    Wise Kwai's Thai Film Journal has very good ongoing coverage of the forthcoming ratings system, Thai film censorship, and of course everything else about Thai films.

    One prominent recent case is Meat Grinder, a slasher flick about a ก๋วยเตี๋ยว seller with a special (human) ingredient in her noodle soup. The censors deemed it a "national security threat", because it would put soup sellers out of business. They have an incredibly low opinion of the Thai people's basic intelligence. The fourth edit of the film was finally approved, but only after many cuts and a name change for the film (from ก๋วยเตี๋ยวเนื้อคน to เชือดก่อนชิม).

    The ratings board in the United States can be just as fickle, opaque and obtuse, but that system is voluntary industry censorship, to avoid government-mandated censorship. There is no such thing as banning. For the Thai government to do this, under threat of ban, for what is obviously already a film in the "R-rated" class, and claim that it's for national security, is disingenuous (or spectacularly stupid, or both).

    Freedom of speech has run on hard times in Thailand.

  3. I don't think Jan Dara or even Som and Bank: Bangkok for Sale would be made today, under the current regime that takes a dim view of movies seriously addressing any current-affairs topics or anything of substance beyond romance or ghostly superstitions.

    It's telling when one of the best movies made in Thailand in the past two years -- Syndromes and a Century -- plays to spectacular critical acclaim all over the world, but when the director tries to show it in his homeland, his movie is cut to ribbons and he is personally insulted and belittled by the culture police.

    Enough for now.

  4. Well i only found this site googling for the director, Khun Toranong Srichua. I read his message and hope you do too.