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Thai film banned from World Film Fest under new film act

An independent Thai film featuring gay sex and confrontational politics was banned from the World Film Festival of Bangkok (WFF), becoming the first casualty of the confusing new Film Act.

Before the ban order, This Area Is Under Quarantine, directed by Thunska Pansittivorakul, was scheduled to play next week at the 7th WFF, a privately-sponsored film festival headed by Victor Silakong and The Nation newspaper.

By law, a festival organiser has to submit synopses of all films to – as well as alert – a sub-committee whose job is to consider which films on the list need to be referred to the main rating committee and which films can be screened without ratings.

The sub-committee, attached to the Ministry of Culture, judged that: “This Area Is Under Quarantine needed to be rated, and instructed the festival organiser to go to the rating committee. But the main rating committee said the festival didn’t present a proper document for the film and couldn’t consider it.

Meanwhile, the sub-committee couldn’t re-consider the film either, because the law doesn’t allow it such a function, thus the film was considered as banned.

“It’s the process that’s complicated,” said a member of the sub-committee. “We didn’t mean to stop the film from being screened, but the system is like that.”

In September, the state-funded Bangkok International Film Festival showed more controversial films such as Antichrist and Dogtooth without censoring, though the organiser imposed its own 20-plus rating.

Thailand began using the rating system for the first time in July, though only for films on regular release.

“I’m sorry that the film we selected can’t be screened,” said WFF director Victor Silakong. “We believe that the film presents a story that’s worth seeing and that we haven’t seen on film before. The process of the law is confusing and it doesn’t offer us a solution. We have been talking about freedom of speech, we haven’t yet seen that.”

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