Thursday, 29 November 2018

El Intermedio

Spanish comedian Dani Mateo appeared in court on Monday, after being charged with disrespecting a national symbol. On his satirical news programme El Intermedio, he blew his nose on the Spanish flag, and then stroked and kissed it in a mock apology. Representatives of a police union filed charges against the TV presenter after the show was broadcast on 31st October. The TV channel, laSexta, deleted the sketch from its website the next day.

Thursday, 22 November 2018


The Chinese author of 攻占, a homoerotic novel about an affair between a teacher and his student, has been jailed for ten years. The book was published anonymously last year, and 7,000 copies were sold online. Under Chinese obscenity law, an extended jail term can be imposed for the distribution of more than 5,000 copies of pornographic materials.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Thibaan: The Series 2.2

Thibaan: The Series 2.2
Thibaan: The Series 2.2 (ไทบ้านเดอะซีรีส์ 2.2), directed by Surasak Pongson, was banned by Thai film censors yesterday, two days before its scheduled release. The censors objected to a scene in which a young monk breaks down in tears at the funeral of his ex-girlfriend. The Thai Film Director Association held a press conference this afternoon at BACC in Bangkok, during which they played the contentious sequence. (The three-minute clip shows the monk sobbing as he clutches his ex-girlfriend's coffin. On Facebook, the director described it as the emotional heart of the film.)

A handful of other Thai films have been banned in the past decade: This Area Is Under Quarantine (บริเวณนี้อยู่ภายใต้การกักกัน), Insects in the Backyard (อินเซค อินเดอะ แบ็คยาร์ด), Shakespeare Must Die (เชคสเปียร์ต้องตาย), Boundary (ฟ้าตํ่าแผ่นดินสูง), and Karma (อาบัติ). Additionally, Syndromes and a Century (แสงศตวรรษ), Headshot (ฝนตกขึ้นฟ้า), Angulimala (องคุลิมาล), and หลวงตา 3 สีกาข้างวัด have been censored due to their depiction of monks, a disclaimer was added to the short film Luang Ta (หลวงตา), and there were protests in 2007 over two prize-winning paintings that represented monks in an unflattering light.


6th October

The Terrorists
Dao Siam
On the morning of 6th October 1976, nationalist vigilantes and soldiers launched an armed attack on Thammasat University in Bangkok. The massacre, prompted by a Dao Siam (ดาวสยาม) headline demonising Thammasat students, remains one of the most violent episodes in Thailand's modern history. Its depiction in films and art has caused controversy and led to censorship, in an ongoing effort to whitewash the event. I've written a survey of the representation of the massacre in Thai cinema, covering documentaries, short films, and feature films.


Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Quavo Huncho

Quavo Huncho
Quavo Huncho is the debut solo album of Quavo, the rapper who has previously performed as part of a trio (Migos) and duo (Huncho Jack). One track, Champagne Rosé, features guest vocals by Madonna and Cardi B.

Friday, 9 November 2018


Diva, by Jean-Jacques Beineix, will be screened on the rooftop of Smalls, a Bangkok bar, on 11th November. The screening is free. Diva marked the beginning of a movement known as cinéma du look: stylised French films influenced by advertising and music videos. Beineix is most famous as the director of Betty Blue (37°2 du matin).

Thursday, 8 November 2018


The anonymous online cartoonist Khai Maew’s debut exhibition opened yesterday. Khai Maew’s four-panel cartoons satirise contemporary Thai politics, and regularly feature caricatures of Thaksin Shinawatra and Prayut Chan-o-cha. To enter the exhibition, visitors pass under a large sculpture of a coconut shell, in reference to an idiomatic Thai metaphor for parochialism: frogs living under coconut shells. Kalaland runs until 22nd November at the Artist+Run gallery in Bangkok.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

"สวัสดีปีใหม่ 2019"

Police officers and soldiers in Ubon Ratchathani have seized copies of a 2019 wall calendar. The calendar features photographs of Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra, the message "HAPPY NEW YEAR" in English and Thai ("สวัสดีปีใหม่ 2019"), and new year's greetings from the two former prime ministers.

5,553 of the calendars were confiscated yesterday. The seizure came a day after a woman in Udon Thani, who posted photographs of the calendar online, was visited by police officers and soldiers.

Similar calendars were banned in 2016, along with plastic Songkran bowls, which also featured seasonal messages from Thaksin and Yingluck. All political activity has been prohibited by the military junta for the past four years. Thaksin and Yingluck were both removed from office by military coups (in 2006 and 2014, respectively).

Sunday, 4 November 2018

The Definitive Guide to Horror Movies

The Definitive Guide to Horror Movies
The Definitive Guide to Horror Movies, published last month, was first published as Horror in 2006. That first edition featured reviews of 300 classic horror films. A second edition, Horror!: 333 Films to Scare You to Death, was released in 2010. A third, Horror: The Definitive Companion to the Most Terrifying Movies Ever Made, appeared in 2013.

The book was originally conceived and edited by James Marriott (who also contributed most of the reviews), with ten essays by Kim Newman. Marriott died in 2012, so the additional reviews in the third edition were all written by Stephen Thrower. For this year's edition, the new reviews have all been written by Owen Williams. Whereas the first edition was published in hardback, with colour photographs, the images in the subsequent paperback editions are all black-and-white.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Cemetery of Splendour

Cemetery of Splendour
Apichatpong Weerasethakul will show his most recent feature film, Cemetery of Splendour (รักที่ขอนแก่น), at the Thai Film Archive on 19th November. The film was shown internationally in 2015, though it did not receive a Thai release.

Apichatpong's film Syndromes and a Century (แสงศตวรรษ) was cut by the Thai censorship board, and he therefore decided not to submit Cemetery of Splendour to the censors, meaning it could not be shown in Thai cinemas. Once bitten, twice shy (though he did arrange a low-key screening for an invited audience at a mobile cinema in his home town of Chiang Mai on 23rd February).

It is, of course, a sad irony that one of the world's most acclaimed directors feels unable to show his work in his own country. When I interviewed Apichatpong in 2016, he explained that he had been inexplicably singled out by the censors: "I think that whatever I do, I will be targeted. Either a ghost movie, or whatever. It's a paranoid time. They're willing to do a witch-hunt, so I become paranoid of them in my own way, and I don't want to risk it. As long as I manage to finish this film as I want, and show it, but not here."

His hesitancy is due primarily to one sequence in Cemetery of Splendour, in which an audience stands in silence. Thai cinemagoers are required to stand for the royal anthem before film screenings, though the anthem cannot be included in films themselves, as Apichatpong told me: "I actually wanted to show the royal anthem, because it's documentary-like. It's what we do. But I know it's impossible, because in the movie Soi Cowboy [ซอยคาวบอย], this was cut out. Censored. So I said, 'It's impossible anyway.' So, just silence." Concerned that the silent scene could be misinterpreted, Apichatpong removed it from all DVD and blu-ray releases of the film, in case they were ever circulated in Thailand.

Like the director's other work, the film is not directly political, though it does include subtle visual references to Thailand's volatile political situation. A portrait of dictator Sarit Thanarat is visible in the background of one scene, implying the military's continued influence on Thai politics. (Similarly, a statue of Sarit looms over the characters in Apichatpong's short film Song of the City, part of the portmanteau film Ten Years Thailand.) Also, one of the characters keeps a journal, in which he writes that lèse-majesté convict Ampon Tangnoppakul should be released ("ขอให้อากงได้ออกมา"). (Apichatpong's short film Ashes includes footage of a demonstration by Ampon's supporters.)

Cemetery of Splendour will be screened free of charge, to celebrate Apichatpong receiving the FIAF Award from the International Federation of Film Archives. Previously, the Thai Film Archive screened his short film A Letter to Uncle Boonmee (จดหมายถึงลุงบุญมี) to mark his Palme d'Or win at the Cannes Film Festival. Last year, the Alliance Français organised an Apichatpong Weekend in honour of the director being named a Commandeur dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.