Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Bard is Barred

Thailand's film censors have banned an adaptation of Shakespeare's "Macbeth," saying it could inflame political passions in the country.
The Thai-language film "Shakespeare Must Die" tells the story of a theater group in a fictional country resembling Thailand that is staging a production of Macbeth, in which an ambitious general murders his way to the Scottish throne.
Censors at the Culture Ministry issued a brief memo Tuesday saying that the film could not be distributed in Thailand because it "has content that causes divisiveness among the people of the nation." The memo did not specify which scenes were deemed offensive.
But, Ing Kanjanavanit, the film's director, said the censorship committee objected to anti-monarchy overtones in the film as well as politically charged content, including a scene based on an iconic photo from Bangkok's 1976 student uprising showing a demonstrator being lynched.
Director Ing Kanjanavanit
"The committee questioned why we wanted to bring back violent pain from the past to make people angry," Ms. Kanjanavanit said in an interview Wednesday. The censors also disliked the attire of a murderer in the film, who wore a bright red hooded cloak — the same color worn by the pro-democracy demonstrators known as the "Red Shirts."
The director called the ruling "absurd" and a reflection of the fear in Thai society.
"I feel like we are heading to a very dark, dark place right now — a place full of fears and everyone has to be extra careful about what they say," Ms Kanjanavanit said, saying the character resembling former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra could represent any leader accused of corruption and abuse of power.
"The character could represent anyone," she said. "When Cambodians watch this they'll think it's Hun Sen. When Libyans watch it they would think it's Gadhafi."
That’s right.  Art is subjective.  Actually, when I first read the title “Shakespeare Must Die” and learned that the movie was about Thailand, I thought the character may have represented Abhisit Vejjajiva. After all, he was corrupt and abused his power when the military installed him as Prime Minister in 2008.  Plus, like Shakespeare, Abhisit is also British.
Now, I’m totally against censorship but if the Thai government is going to ban this adaptation of “MacBeth” perhaps they’ll allow my idea for a movie which is an adaptation of the hit Rogers and Hammerstein musical play – “The King and I”.
Yes, based upon the bestselling book by Margaret Landon in 1944 about Anna Leonowens, a British governess in the Royal Court of Siam during the 1860s, the story mainly concerns the culture clash of the Imperialist Victorian values of the British Empire with the autocratic rule of Siam's King Mongkut. 
In my version of “The King and I”, the part of Anna Leonowens would go to Abhisit Vejjajiva because, as I mentioned before, he is British too.
Of course, this film may be somewhat controversial too but here's a small clip anyway.

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