Thursday, 27 February 2014

Dear Censor...

Dear Censor...
Dear Censor...: The Secret Archive Of The British Board Of Film Classification uses files and correspondence from the BBFC's archive to show how films were censored in the UK from the 1950s to the 1980s. The documentary features letters exchanged between BBFC directors and film directors and distributors, and examiners' reports on controversial films such as The Wild One, Rebel Without A Cause, A Clockwork Orange, The Devils, and Salo.

The programme, part of BBC4's Timeshift series, was directed by Matt Pelly and broadcast on 29th September 2011. Its access to the BBFC's archive is unprecedented, though the BBFC's policy of preventing access to material from the past twenty years means that the documentary couldn't cover more recent controversies such as Child's Play III, Crash, Grotesque, and A Serbian Film.

Dear Censor... is the third TV documentary exploring the history of the BBFC. BBC2's Empire Of The Censors, a comprehensive history from the 1910s to the early 1990s, was broadcast in 1995. Channel 4's The Last Days Of The Board, covering the BBFC in the 1990s, was transmitted in 1999. Tom Dewe Mathews wrote Censored, the definitive book on British film censorship, in 1994.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Full Metal Jacket Diary

Full Metal Jacket Diary
Matthew Modine's Full Metal Jacket Diary has been released as an iOS app. It was originally published as a book in 2005, and the app combines the book's text and images with additional multimedia content. Modine has recorded an audio version of the journal he wrote while making Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, and the app even includes letters from Kubrick to Modine.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

"This case is over..."

Kitti Eaksangkul
A general election was held as scheduled on 2nd February, though the government continues to face street protests and judicial interventions. Prime Minister Yingluck met the Election Commission on 28th January, after the Constitutional Court decreed that the election could be legally postponed. While the EC called for a delay, Yingluck argued that there was no legal precedent for an extension beyond the sixty-day period stipulated by the constitution.

Suthep's PDRC protesters attempted to prevent voting on election day, just as they did when advanced voting took place on 26th January. 89% of polling stations opened successfully, though voting was cancelled in nine provinces due to PDRC disruption and lack of Election Commission officials. Kitti Eaksangkul was attacked by a PDRC protester as he attempted to enter a polling station, and a photograph of the assault was reproduced in newspapers around the world.

There is still confusion surrounding twenty-eight constituencies in which no candidates could register for the election, marking another disagreement between the government and the Election Commission. The government maintains that the existing royal decree can be applied to the new round of registrations and by-elections, though the EC insists that a new decree is required. This is uncharted legal territory, a further sign of the stalemate created by the cycle of protests in Bangkok. As with the election postponement, the EC will ask the Constitutional Court to adjudicate on the need for a royal decree.

Following a petition from the Democrat Party (which boycotted the election) seeking an annulment of the election, the Constitutional Court ruled last week that the election was legal. This was an unexpected victory for the government, as the Court had annulled the 2006 election (which the Democrats also boycotted).

The Democrats have previously accused the government of disrespecting Constitutional Court judgements (after the Court rejected Yingluck's bill to restore a fully-elected Senate), thus the Democrat lawyer was careful not to challenge the Court's validation of the election. The lawyer, Wiratana Kalayasiri, said, "This case is over. But if the government does anything wrong again, we will make another complaint."

The PDRC protesters are still occupying several intersections in Bangkok, though they closed two of their camps at the start of this month. The protest sites are almost totally deserted during the daytime, though more protesters arrive in the evenings. Some sites resemble street markets rather than political demonstrations. (Also, Suthep has failed four times to appear at the Criminal Court to answer murder charges relating to the 2010 military massacre.)

More than a month after Suthep's 'Shutdown Bangkok' protest escalation, the police have begun an attempt at reclaiming some of the blockaded buildings and roads. Yesterday, four protesters and a police officer were killed at Phan Fah near Democracy Monument. Protesters attacked the police with grenades and gunfire, and the police responded with live ammunition.

Today, the Civil Court ruled that, while the government is within its rights to declare a state of emergency, it has no authority to disperse the protesters. This judgement is a contradiction, as political demonstrations are forbidden during a state of emergency. It also legitimises the illegal protest movement and represents another judicial undermining of the government's authority. Furthermore, the ruling is in contrast to the Civil Court's decision of 5th April 2010, when it decreed that the government did have the authority to disperse the UDD protesters.

Yesterday, the National Anti-Corruption Commission unanimously decided to bring formal charges against Yingluck for her role in the government's rice subsidy scheme. This could potentially lead to Yingluck's impeachment, if she were found guilty. Impeachment would require a three-fifths majority vote in the Senate, though Yingluck would be suspended from duty pending the Senate's vote.

In 2011, the government agreed to pay farmers up to 50% above the market rate for their rice, intending to withhold it from the world market and thus drive up the price. The result, however, was that other countries such as India and Vietnam increased their rice exports, the government was left with vast stockpiles of rice that it could not sell, and therefore it could not pay the farmers for the rice they had supplied.

Despite initially dismissing the rice farmers as uneducated peasants, the PDRC have now embraced the farmers as victims of the government, and are raising money to pay them. (Suthep accused the government of buying votes with this and other policies, though he is now employing the same strategy by paying the rice farmers himself.)

La Vie De Mahomet

La Vie De Mahomet
Charlie Hebdo has published a new edition of its comic-book Mohammed biography. La Vie De Mahomet, by Stephane Charbonnier and Zineb el Rhazoui, was previously available in two parts (Les Debuts d'Un Prophet and Le Prophete De L'Islam); the new edition incorporates both of these together with an additional twenty pages of new material, including provocative cartoons of Mohammed having sex.

Charlie Hebdo previously courted controversy by printing cartoons of Mohammed in 2006, 2011, and 2012. It is currently facing a blasphemy charge following its headline criticising the Koran.

Charlie Hebdo

Charlie Hebdo
The satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo is being sued for blasphemy by the Muslim Judicial Defence League, and the case will be heard in a Strasbourg court on 7th April. The law of blasphemy was abolished throughout most of France after the French Revolution, though it still applies in the Alsace-Moselle region, which includes Strasbourg.

The issue of Charlie Hebdo under investigation was published on 10th July last year. Its front page featured a cartoon by Laurent Sourisseau (known as Riss), accompanied by the headline "LE CORAN C'EST DE LA MERDE" ('the Koran is shit').

Charlie Hebdo has previously courted controversy by printing cartoons of Mohammed in 2006, 2011, and 2012. It also published a comic-book biography of Mohammed, titled La Vie De Mahomet (part 1, part 2).

Monday, 17 February 2014

Thai Cinema

Thai Cinema
Thai Cinema, or Le Cinema Thailandais, published in 2006 in both English and French, was the first book to examine the history of the Thai film industry. The anthology, edited by Bastian Meirsonne, includes essays by Thai and Western writers, and is accompanied by a DVD of interviews.

There is some overlap between the first two chapters, as they both summarise Thai cinema history, presenting essentially the same chronology. There are also essays on various aspects of distribution: cinemas, posters, piracy, and censorship; and profiles of actors such as Mitr Chaibancha (the original Red Eagle).

The Thai New Wave is covered in several chapters, including profiles of directors Pen-ek Ratanaruang (Paradoxocracy, Headshot, Nymph, Ploy) and Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Uncle Boonmee, Syndromes & A Century). There are also essays on contemporary short films and indie cinema, and a useful overview of the themes explored in recent Thai films.

Most essays are only a few pages long, offering brief summaries of topics that deserve more extensive coverage. Also, there are some inconsistencies due to the variety of languages involved; for example, Nonzee Nimibutr's film Dang Bireley's and Young Gangsters [sic] is variously translated as "Dang Bireley's and the Gangsters", "Dang Bireley's and the young Gangsters", and "Dang Bireley and the Young Gangsters".

Saturday, 15 February 2014

12 Angry Men & Citizen Kane

12 Angry Men & Citizen Kane
12 Angry Men
Citizen Kane
The Thai Film Archive in Salaya will screen two Hollywood classics later this month. Sidney Lumet's courtroom (or rather, jury room) drama 12 Angry Men will be shown on 23rd February; and Citizen Kane, the masterpiece by Orson Welles (and arguably the greatest film ever made), will be screened on 28th February.

Friday, 7 February 2014


Valerie Trierweiler, the former partner of French President Francois Hollande, is suing Closer magazine for invasion of privacy. The magazine's current issue, published today, features paparazzi photographs of Trierweiler wearing a bikini. Following the lawsuit, Closer has blurred the photographs on its website.

Trierweiler sued Closer and other magazines for publishing similar photographs in 2012. Last month, Closer was sued by Hollande's mistress, and French Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti won damages against the magazine. (Like Trierweiler, Filippetti was photographed while on holiday on the island of Mauritius.) Closer published topless photographs of Kate Middleton in 2012.