Director speaks out on Thailand’s Shakespeare ban-Bangkok Post
April 23, 2012
On the RECORD
Movie ban due to ‘climate of fear’
Ing Kanjanavanit has become the filmmaker of the moment despite the fact that the public has not even had the chance to see her film.
Bangkok Post: April 18, 2012
Her adaptation of Macbeth, called Shakespeare Tong Tai or Shakespeare Must Die, has been banned by the censors. Ironically, the movie was partially funded by the Ministry of Culture.
Speculation is rife that the film, which contains off-scene regicide, touches on several politically sensitive issues and can be interpreted as an anti-Thaksin allegory. It also contains footage of the fires on May 19, 2010, as well as a re-enactment of the violence of Oct 6, 1976. KONG RITHDEE reports.
I didn’t make a Shakespeare film as a gimmick. To me, Shakespeare is God, and I wanted to share the pleasure [of adapting his play] with Thai people.
Macbeth is a study of megalomania. The real Macbeth lived 900 years ago, the play is 400 years old, and yet tyrants of all cultures feel the same paranoia, like the same black magic.
It’s easy for Thai people to relate to the story. This country is ruled by fear. Not only at the national level, but every village has a Macbeth, every office has a Macbeth. It’s this whole phu yai system and the local strongman mentality.
The film has a scene that re-stages the lynching of Oct 6, 1976.
The censors said, “That scene is violent, do you want people to remember our painful past?” Yes, I want you to feel sick but not because you see the murderers and the corpse. In that scene, the camera focuses on the spectators who are cheering and laughing. That’s the horror.
And why can’t we talk about the past? Germany wouldn’t ban a film that talks about concentration camps.
In that scene there’s also a line of dialogue: “You insult my father, you must die.”
My point is, maybe you have different fathers, but do we really want to fight and kill each other because we’re being egged on by the propaganda from either side? Do you really want to be used in this way?
Is the film an anti-Thaksin parable?
I wrote the script in 2008 when the red shirts were not a big issue, and essentially I didn’t change it when we shot it. Our film is not propaganda and I’m not making this film against this or that person. It grows organically from its native soil.
All the darkness that surrounded the making of the film shaped the film. We used footage of the burning of Siam Theatre because it’s free and, visually, it’s great for the Three Witches scene. I couldn’t resist that.
Why do you think the film has been banned?
It’s the climate of fear. Most of us are not fanatics, but we’re trapped between fanatics of all stripes and we live in fear. That’s why we were banned.
The film has an intriguing scene in which Malcolm, the crown prince, has a long discussion with Macduff.
That’s the English scene, which [no film directors] use except Orson Welles. That scene is the discussion of the divine right of a king, and it can be boring [laughs]…
But anyone who thinks that Macbeth is disrespectful to the monarchy doesn’t know Macbeth at all.
Shakespeare is a political writer because he lived in times of power plays and great darkness, like we do now. Our film is a close reading of Macbeth.
I’m not making fun of Thaksin because there are many other ways to do that. I wouldn’t spend two years of my life just on doing that.
Do you have a political stance?
What does that mean exactly? I don’t want to live in fear. I’m upset about what happens in the South, about the corruption and the lies and the spin. In that sense, yes, I’m political.
You’re calling for an end to censorship. What do you think about the lese majeste law? Should it be amended?
Yes, it should. The problem is it [the movement to amend the lese majeste law] is being used as a tool, most of all to damage the King and to make Thaksin look like a champion of democracy. That is why a lot of people who want it changed don’t want to join that bandwagon.
How did you approach the translation of Macbeth?
I tried very hard to keep Shakespeare’s music and manifold meanings. The big test for me is to make the lines come out naturally from the mouth; actors love Shakespeare because of that.
If Shakespeare were alive now, I’m willing to bet he’d be a filmmaker. The way he uses imagery is so clear. Macbeth is almost a ready-made film script.
Your producer said he’s ready to go to prison by showing the film anyway. Would you go to jail for a movie?
[Laughs]… It’s not something I’d like to contemplate… but I guess if I must, I must.