A lot has happened in
Amid all that, there's one case
that's unlikely to catch much
attention. It sits in the in-tray of
and concerns a dispute between a
censors decreed that it possessed
"content that causes divisiveness among the people of the nation". The director's name is Ing Kanjanavanit. The title of her film is Shakespeare Tong Tai (Shakespeare Must Die).
Even by the fraught standards of
of a 450-year-old poet being politically too hot to handle seems surreal. But then everything about this story is
surreal: belligerent title aside, the film is a dutiful adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth, faithful to nearly every jot and scribble of the text (at 172 minutes, it's not for lightweights). It received
She and I are sitting on a bench outside the campus of
you could slice the humidity with a knife. The reason we've abandoned the blissful air-con of the screening room for the bench is so that Ing can smoke.
"Sorry," she says, quite troubled. "Sorry. Really, you don't mind?"
Slight and neat with a patient,
wide gaze, Ing (who as a director goes under the name of Ing K) doesn't
look like a firebrand. Born in 1959,
she was sent to boarding school in
I run through the outlines of
the case, to check I'm not missing something. She smiles wanly. "Two years now," she says. "We have no idea when we'll get our day in court. It could be any day, it could be much longer. But when the country's like this, who cares about a movie?"
The project began in earnest in 2007, when Ing had finished her previous
film, Polamuang Juling (Citizen Juling),
a documentary about the death of
a teacher assaulted by a group of
Muslim women in southern
controversial for international festivals, she began translating Macbeth to keep her mind off things. "I just wanted to have no brain left for anything else.
So I went back to
As it happened, in 2008 Juling was selected by the
Shinawatra as prime minister in 2001 (a hero to some; a corrupt dictator to others), his overthrow in 2006, and the subsequent tumultuous power struggles, capped by this latest military coup - perhaps the 12th
In the film, Macbeth/Dear Leader, played with porcine cunning by
Pisarn Pattanapeeradej, transitions with alarming rapidity from dutiful
officer to narrow-eyed megalomaniac, chillaxing in his garishly overdecorated compound.
Even if you're unversed in the
intricacies of Thai politics, it is not hard to see Thaksin's shadow falling across the screenplay. That at least seems to have been the view of the censors, who decreed that it was "in conflict with peaceful social order or good public morality", and demanded changes -
notably objecting to its use of the
colour red, associated with Thaksin's supporters. The film had been funded by an opposition-led government; by the time it came to be licensed, Thaksin's sister Yingluck was prime minister.
Ing concedes she is hardly a fan of a man she accuses of a "blatant and obscene lack of ethics", but rejects the accusation that the film is anti-Thaksin propaganda: her use of red, for
instance, was decided long before it
became associated with his redshirts. "I use Thaksin to illustrate
One of the most disturbing sections occurs at the end, where Macbeth's
execution bleeds into a scene
resembling the notorious massacre at
the bad guy dead, all that," says
Ing. "But in real life it's not a happy ending. The film is a kind of warning."
If it is a warning, few have been able to attend to it. Barred from public screening in
It's not without laughs: on one
occasion Manit is made to wait while the board urgently reviews the film Dear Doggies 2; on another Ing is expelled to the culture ministry lobby, whereupon her camera lingers on a fatuous instructional video on the niceties of Thai etiquette. "This is their mentality, so out of step with the times. It's absurd. Like
Alice in Wonderland."
Equally Alice-like is the fact that - presumably embarrassed by having outlawed a film co-written
have allowed Censor Must Die to
pass, on the basis that it depicts "events that really happened".
"Effectively it's been banned,"
says Ing. "They threatened to sue
any cinema that put it on. But
what cinemas want to screen
The court case is still pending;
she and Manit are busily considering
alternative ways to screen their
protesters camped around
I say. She shrugs helplessly: "I haven't got an ending yet."
she was filming on the day the soldiers arrived. A conclusion of sorts.
The phone line makes her sound a world away. "What can you do?" she says. "You just go on and on. Put one foot in front of the other."
Toil and trouble . . . (top, from left) Lord and
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