01 June 2023

Zombie Citizens

Zombie Citizens

Weerapat Sakolvaree’s short documentary Zombie Citizens, like his earlier film Nostalgia, links the recent student protest movement with Thailand’s violent political history. Zombie Citizens begins with captions explaining that a Free Youth march on 7th August 2021 was rerouted after roads leading to the Grand Palace were blocked with shipping containers. Weerapat also filmed at Thammasat University on 6th October 2021, the 45th anniversary of a massacre that took place on the campus in 1976.

When Free Youth were denied entry to the Grand Palace grounds, they marched instead to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s residence, and riot police fired rubber bullets to disperse them. Zombie Citizens doesn’t document the violent clashes between protesters and police; instead, the film is eerily quiet, as the shipping containers block any traffic and the roads are almost deserted. The title hints at the state’s attitude towards the protesters, as shipping containers were also used to prevent zombie attacks in World War Z.

Shots of the Royal Hotel evoke another violent episode, the 1992 ‘Black May’ massacre, when the hotel lobby was used as a makeshift field hospital. The hotel and the university campus have become what Dutch artist Armando called ‘guilty landscapes’, bearing silent witness to past violence. Taiki Sakpisit’s short film A Ripe Volcano (ภูเขาไฟพิโรธ) and Thunska Pansittivorakul’s documentary Homogeneous, Empty Time (สุญกาล) also include sequences filmed at the Royal Hotel, again alluding to ‘Black May’.

A few minutes before it finishes, Zombie Citizens switches into reverse. The film runs backwards—a metaphor for the regressive, cyclical nature of Thai politics?—and View from the Bus Tour’s single Sun Rises When Day Breaks (ลิ่วล้อ) plays on the soundtrack. (The song was released on the 45th anniversary of the Thammasat massacre.)

Nostalgia ended with a shot of the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall seen from behind iron railings, after the building was closed to the public by royal decree. Similarly, Zombie Citizens shows Sanam Luang through barbed wire and the Grand Palace glimpsed from behind shipping containers. The state has battened down the hatches, and this is perhaps the calm before the storm.

11 May 2023

Warner Bros. 100

The Wizard of Oz

Two Hollywood classics, Casablanca and The Wizard of Oz, are returning to cinemas in Bangkok on general release as part of Warner Bros. 100, marking the centenary of the Warner Bros. studio. They will be shown by Thailand’s two national cinema chains (Major Cineplex and SF Cinema), and at House Samyan, with The Wizard of Oz opening today followed by Casablanca on 18th May.

The Wizard of Oz, one of the most iconic films ever made, was previously shown at Bangkok Screening Room in 2018, 2019, and 2020. It’s also been screened at the Scala, Cinema Winehouse, Bangkok Community Theatre, and Jam Café. Casablanca, arguably the greatest (and surely the most quotable) Hollywood movie of all time, was previously screened at the Scala, at Bangkok Screening Room, and (in 35mm) at the Lido.

29 April 2023

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (blu-ray)

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Sergio Leone’s epic The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo) is the greatest ‘spaghetti western’ ever made, though it has a long and convoluted editing history, with three different cuts supervised by Leone and numerous revisions by MGM. The most recent 4k restoration rectifies most of the problems with previous releases, though the only completely authentic presentation of the international theatrical version is on laserdisc.

When the film premiered in 1966 in Italy, it included a sequence set in a grotto, which was deleted by Leone for pacing reasons before the general theatrical release. Then, in 1967, Leone removed more than ten minutes of footage for the international version. VHS and laserdisc releases were direct transfers of the original theatrical versions, but later DVDs, blu-rays, and UHDs are restorations and reconstructions, all of which are compromised to some extent.

MGM first attempted to reconstruct the international theatrical version for a 1998 DVD release, though some sequences were sourced from Italian prints, leading to inconsistencies with the 1967 version. In 2002, MGM created a new, extended version utilising all extant footage, including the grotto sequence that Leone himself had removed before the Italian theatrical release. This 2002 version also featured new foley effects and newly looped dialogue in some scenes.

For blu-ray and DVD releases in 2014, MGM remastered their extended version and altered the colour grading, adding an incongruous yellow tint to the image. The extended version was remastered again for new blu-rays and DVDs in 2017, when the yellow tint was removed. 2017 also marked MGM’s second reconstruction of the international theatrical version, though this followed the flawed template of their 1998 attempt.

The film was released on 4k UHD and blu-ray in 2021, and this time MGM created an almost flawless reconstruction of the international theatrical version (the only inconsistencies being in the title sequence). Reconstruction credits were added to the end credits sequence of this release, and to all UHD, blu-ray, and DVD editions released since 2002.

26 April 2023

Thai Queer Cinema Odyssey

Thai Queer Cinema Odyssey

The Thai Film Archive at Salaya will screen a season of gay films thoughout May and June, under the Thai Queer Cinema Odyssey (การเดินทางของหนังเควียร์ไทย) banner. This will be a rare chance to see the pioneering films of the 1980s—The Last Song (เพลงสุดท้าย), Anguished Love (รักทรมาน), and I Am a Man (ฉันผู้ชายนะยะ)—that constituted the first wave of Thai queer cinema. Also, Tanwarin Sukkhapisit’s Insects in the Backyard (อินเซค อินเดอะ แบ็คยาร์ด) will be shown on 17th and 30th June. The highlight of the season, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Tropical Malady, will be screened in 35mm on 24th and 30th June.

Insects in the Backyard premiered at the World Film Festival of Bangkok in 2010, though requests for a general theatrical release were denied, making it the first film formally banned under the Film and Video Act of 2008. When the censors vetoed a screening at the Thai Film Archive in 2010, Tanwarin cremated a DVD of the film, in a symbolic funeral. (The ashes are kept in an urn at the Thai Film Museum.) Tanwarin appealed to the National Film Board, which upheld the ban, so she sued the censors in the Administrative Court.

As Tanwarin explained in an interview for Thai Cinema Uncensored, the censors condemned the entire film: “When we asked the committee who considered the film which scenes constituted immorality, they simply said that they thought every scene is immoral”. When she appealed to the Film Board, they were equally dismissive: “we were told by one of the committee members that we should have made the film in a ‘good’ way. This was said as if we did not know how to produce a good movie, and no clear explanation was given.”

On Christmas Day 2015, the Administrative Court ruled that Insects in the Backyard could be released if a single shot was removed. (The three-second shot shows a hardcore clip from a gay porn video.) Although the film was censored, the verdict represented a victory of sorts, as the court dismissed the censors’ view that the film was immoral. Following the court’s ruling, it was shown at House Rama, Bangkok Screening Room, Sunandha Rajabhat University, ChangChui, and Lido Connect. It was shown at the Thai Film Archive in 2018 and 2020.

Internationally, Tropical Malady is one of Apichatpong’s most acclaimed films, though it had rather lacklustre distribution in Thailand. In a Thai Cinema Uncensored interview, he discussed its disappointing domestic theatrical release: “I think, from Tropical Malady, there’s this issue of releasing the film, and marketing, that I don’t like. And also the studio was not interested in the film, anyway, because there’s no selling point: there’s no tiger, there’s no sex, so it’s very personal.”

Tropical Malady: The Book, a deluxe coffee-table book published in 2019, raised the film’s Thai profile. It was previously shown in 35mm at Alliance Française, and it has been screened several times at the Thai Film Archive, including in 2009 and 2018.

23 April 2023

Khon Boys

Khon Boys

Phassarawin Kulsomboon’s new documentary Khon Boys (เด็กโขน) follows a group of students as they learn the Thai dramatic art of khon dancing. The film opens with an introduction to the history of khon and its associations with Thai royalty: khon was traditionally performed exclusively at royal functions, and its principal characters are gods and kings. The ten kings of Thailand’s current Chakri dynasty share their name with Rama, protagonist of the khon drama Ramakien (รามเกียรติ์), and the film highlights the parallels between khon’s warrior kings and the past 200 years of Thai history.

Captions describe the Ramakien’s plot: “Rama returns home for his coronation, and his reign is one of peace and happiness.” Cut to: Sanam Luang, “15 months after King Rama X’s coronation,” where protesters gathered in September 2020 to call for reform of the monarchy. Later, there is footage of riot police firing rubber bullets at REDEM protesters at Sanam Luang in March 2021, and an impressive drone shot of 10,000 protesters assembling at Democracy Monument in August 2020. The film describes the epic Ramakien as a “great battle between Good and Evil,” and it presents the current confrontations between demonstrators and the establishment in the same terms.

Khon Boys

Khon Boys is Phassarawin’s solo directorial debut, though he previously codirected Danse Macabre (มรณสติ) and the short film Dance of Death (แดนซ์ ออฟ เดธ) with Thunska Pansittivorakul. He also worked as cinematographer on Thunska’s Santikhiri Sonata (สันติคีรี โซนาตา) and Homogeneous, Empty Time (สุญกาล). Khon Boys is similar to the latter film, as they both include interviews with high-school boys about contemporary politics.

Khon Boys perfectly captures the tension between tradition and change. Just as youthful protesters are challenging established hierarchies, the young khon students are participating in a royalist artform yet simultaneously questioning the ideology it represents. The film shows a social studies class that appears to be a straightforward propaganda exercise, with a writing project titled “Missing the King in Heaven”. Meanwhile, when interviewed by the director, the students criticise the lèse-majesté law and the military. As one student puts it succinctly: “Soldiers aren’t the nation’s fence. They are the king’s shield.”

Some of their comments on lèse-majesté were self-censored by the director, with photos of CGI dinosaurs to mask the forbidden opinions. (Homogeneous, Empty Time also includes a self-censored discussion of lèse-majesté.) One student resorts to a thinly-veiled metaphor, namely a fictional location in the Japanese manga series One Piece (ワンピース): “Let me talk about the country of Wano. Lord Kaido is the country’s big boss. He thinks he has limitless power and can do anything to people like us.”

18 April 2023

Hoon Payon / Pook Payon

Hoon Payon / Pook Payon

When the Thai horror film Hoon Payon (หุ่นพยนต์) faced censorship and a restrictive ‘20’ rating, its distributors announced a plan to release it simultaneously in two versions: Hoon Payon—with the ‘20’ rating imposed by the censors—and Pook Payon (ปลุกพยนต์), with a lower ‘18’ rating though paradoxically four minutes longer. Both versions contain the same level of violence, which is much less than that of many other Thai horror films—such as the gory Art of the Devil II (ลองของ), for example, which was passed by the censors before the rating system existed—making the ‘20’ rating seem rather punitive.

Mindful of how monk characters have often been censored in Thai films (as discussed in Thai Cinema Uncensored), the studio had already taken precautions at the script stage. The film stresses that the abbot (Luang Nha) and his accomplice (Tudd), who are ultimately responsible for the black magic at the heart of the plot, are not real monks. As another monk (Gla) tells the abbot: “You are never ordained to become a monk” [sic]. Similarly, the film revolves around a local superstition, not the Buddhist religion. The various killings are carried out—spoiler alert—by a lay character (Tae), a novice (Kun), and a monk (Tee), though the novice and monk are possessed spirits, not living people.

Despite this, the censors initially required edits to several scenes in Hoon Payon before granting the ‘20’ rating: novice monks fighting and swearing while wearing saffron robes, novices bullying another young boy, a novice hugging his mother, and the recitation of one of the Buddhist precepts during a murder scene. They also raised concerns about the actors playing novices all having eyebrows (as monks are required to shave their body hair before ordination), and references to the Wat Teppayon temple were also deemed inappropriate.

After negotiations between the censors and the film studio, some of this ‘unacceptable’ material was cut, though some remains intact (in both versions). The novices—and, indeed, the full-fledged monks—still have eyebrows, as presumably it was too expensive to remove them all with CGI. Novices are shown swearing (“Hia!”/“Shit!”). One novice (Kun) bullies a young boy (Tae), calling him a “retard”. Another novice (Breeze) hugs his mother, comforting and protecting her. The second Buddhist precept (“stealing is a sin”) is recited by Tae while he hangs a monk (Tudd) for stealing temple funds.

Pook Payon

Pook Payon

As part of its marketing campaign, the studio claimed on Facebook: “ไม่ตัดฉาก!!” (‘no scenes cut!!’), and it’s true that no entire scenes have been removed, though some individual shots have been censored. In both versions, the intensity of the bullying scene has been reduced: shots of Kun spoon-feeding Tae, and the protagonist (Tham) raising his fists to fight the bully, have both been replaced with reaction shots. The temple sign has also been changed, using CGI: the original sign (“วัดเทพพยนต์”/‘Teppayon temple’) became “เทพพยนต์” (‘Teppayon’). But although the sign was modified, the soundtrack wasn’t: in both versions, the Thai dialogue (“วัดเทพพยนต์”) and the English subtitles (“Teppayon temple”) use the temple’s full name.

Most of the extra footage in Pook Payon is barely noticeable, even after watching both versions back-to-back. But in the most conspicuous additional scene, clearly tacked on to appease the censors—with earnest, didactic dialogue, out of place in a horror film—a lay character (Jate) resolves to become a monk, and Gla tells him: “Becoming a monk is good... it’s best that we hold onto Buddhism.” Jate answers with equal sincerity: “That’s right. I’ll always support Buddhism.” Amen!

30 March 2023

Anatomy of Time / Come Here / Worship

Anatomy of Time / Come Here / Worship, published this week, explores the making of three recent independent Thai films: Jakrawal Nilthamrong’s Anatomy of Time (เวลา), Anocha Suwichakornpong’s Come Here (ใจจำลอง), and Uruphong Raksasad’s Worship (บูชา). The book gives a valuable insight into the creation of each film: Anatomy of Time is particularly well covered, with a production diary, director interview, and the complete script; there are also long essays by the directors of Come Here and Worship. Early copies of the book come with film posters, and all copies include links to watch the three films online.

Anatomy of Time made headlines this week as, despite its critical acclaim, it was excluded from consideration for the Suphannahong National Film Awards. The awards organisers, the National Federation of Motion Pictures and Contents Associations, now require films to sell a minimum of 50,000 cinema tickets in at least five provinces, to be eligible for awards nomination. These commercial stipulations effectively remove independent films from awards contention.

27 March 2023

Hoon Payon / Pook Payon

Hoon Payon / Pook Payon

Hoon Payon (หุ่นพยนต์), the horror film whose theatrical release was blocked by Thai censors, will be released next month in an edited version, retitled Pook Payon (ปลุกพยนต์). The censors originally gave Hoon Payon a restrictive ‘20’ rating, requiring audiences to show ID before admittance, which director Phontharis Chotkijsadarsopon described as crazy (“บบ้าตาย”) in a Facebook post on 9th March. Pook Payon, on the other hand, has been rated ‘18’ after an extra four minutes of contextualising footage was added.

The National Film and Video Committee initially required several edits to Hoon Payon before permitting its release: novice monks fighting and swearing while wearing saffron robes, novices bullying another young boy, a novice hugging his mother, and the recitation of one of the Buddhist precepts during a murder scene. They also raised concerns about the actors playing novices all having eyebrows (as monks are required to shave their body hair before ordination), and references to the Wat Teppayon temple were also deemed unacceptable.

Hoon Payon / Pook Payon Hoon Payon / Pook Payon Hoon Payon / Pook Payon

The case echoes that of Karma, a previous Thai horror film that was also retitled to appease the censors; its Thai title was changed from Arbat (อาบัติ) to Arpat (อาปัติ). Pook Payon will be released on 12th April, and Hoon Payon, with its ‘20’ rating, will be released on the same day. (The studio has published before and after shots online to illustrate the changes.) The only precedent for the simultaneous release strategy is the thriller In the Shadow of Naga (นาคปรก), which was also released in both ‘18’ and ‘20’-rated versions.

Five Star, the studio behind Pook Payon, is one of Thailand’s most prestigious film production companies—releasing critically acclaimed films by auteur directors like Wisit Sasanatieng and Pen-ek Ratanaruang—though in commercial terms it remains dwarfed by major studios such as Sahamongkol. In an interview for Thai Cinema Uncensored, director Apichatpong Weerasethakul contrasted his experience of censorship with that of Pen-ek: Apichatpong’s film Blissfully Yours (สุดเสน่หา) was distributed by Sahamongkol, and thus received lenient treatment from the censors, while Pen-ek’s Ploy (พลอย)—a Five Star release—was given no such concessions.

25 March 2023

Arcadia Rooftop Cinema

Bangkok’s Arcadia bar continues its weekly cult film screenings tomorrow with Katsuhiro Otomo’s animated cyberpunk masterpiece Akira (アキラ). Previous films in the open-air Arcadia Rooftop Cinema programme have included 2001: A Space Odyssey, Die Hard, Un chien andalou (‘an Andalusian dog’), Videodrome, and Alien. Akira was shown at another Bangkok venue in 2019, alongside Arcadia’s signature film, Blade Runner.

10 March 2023

Hoon Payon

The release of Hoon Payon (หุ่นพยนต์), a new Thai horror film, has been postponed after it was censored by the National Film and Video Committee. The censors required five edits to the film before permitting its release: references to the Wat Teppaton temple, novice monks fighting and swearing while wearing saffron robes, novices bullying another young boy, a novice hugging his mother, and the recitation of one of the Buddhist precepts during a murder scene. They also raised concerns about the actors playing novices all having eyebrows, as monks are required to shave their body hair before ordination.

Some of the censors’ concerns are in line with the censorship of previous Thai films featuring Buddhist monks: Karma, for example, was also censored for its misbehaving monks and for physical contact between a monk and a woman. (Thai Cinema Uncensored discusses the almost 100-year relationship between Buddhism and banned films.) The censors’ objection to the novices’ eyebrows, on the other hand, seems over-sensitive and inconsistent. Mario Maurer, for instance, was not required to shave his eyebrows for his starring role as a monk in The Outrage (อุโมงค์ผาเมือง).

Hoon Payon

Hoon Payon had its premiere at Major Cineplex Ratchayothin on 7th March, followed by a Q&A with director Phontharis Chotkijsadarsopon. Its theatrical release is now on hold, as the studio considers the censors’ verdict. Even if the required cuts were made, the film would receive a restrictive ‘20’ rating, requiring audiences to show ID before admittance, which Phontharis described as crazy (“บบ้าตาย”) in a post on Facebook yesterday. The Thai Film Director Association issued a statement yesterday, calling for an amendment to the Film and Video Act designating the National Film and Video Committee as purely a ratings body without the authority to cut or ban films.

07 March 2023

Arcadia Rooftop Cinema

The Rooftop Cinema programme of open-air movie screenings at Bangkok’s Arcadia bar continues this weekend with another classic film. After 2001: A Space Odyssey, Die Hard, Un chien andalou (‘an Andalusian dog’), Blade Runner, and Videodrome—all screened in the past few months—comes Ridley Scott’s SF-horror masterpiece Alien, showing on 12th March.

The Greatest Films of All Time

Sight and Sound

Last year, Sight and Sound published the results of its Greatest Films of All Time survey. Ever since 1952, the magazine has polled film critics around the world every ten years, to compile authoritative lists of the ten greatest films ever made. In 2012, for the first time, they expanded their list to include 100 titles, and their 2022 poll was also initially published as a list of 100 films. Now, last year’s list has been expanded further, to 250 films, printed as a checklist on pp. 50–53 of the new April issue (vol. 33, no. 3).

27 February 2023

The Visible Woman:
Selected Works of Chantal Akerman

The Thai Film Archive in Salaya will hold a mini retrospective of films by Chantal Akerman on 23rd April. The Visible Woman: Selected Works of Chantal Akerman begins with a rare screening of the director’s feminist masterpiece Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, which was recently voted the greatest film of all time in a poll conducted by Sight and Sound magazine.

เปี๊ยกโปสเตอร์ 90+

เปี๊ยกโปสเตอร์ 90+ (‘Piak Poster 90+’), an exhibition celebrating the 90th birthday of director Somboonsuk Niyomsiri, opened at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya on 18th October last year and runs until 19th March. The exhibition is accompanied by a retrospective of Somboonsuk’s films, culminating with screenings of his classic debut feature A Man Called Tone (โทน) on 7th and 19th March.

The release of A Man Called Tone in 1970 was a turning point in Thai cinema history. Filmed in widescreen 35mm, it marked the end of the 16mm era, a formulaic mode of production that had dominated the industry for the previous twenty years. Stylistically, its modern approach to characterisation, acting, narrative, music, and cinematography was equally groundbreaking. It was shown last year at Doc Club and Pub in Bangkok, though a gala screening at the Scala cinema in 2020 was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.


Somboonsuk, known as Piak Poster, is also one of Thailand’s most prolific poster artists, and those who emerged after him were either taught by him or influenced by his style. He ran his studio like a Renaissance workshop, creating posters bearing the master’s signature—effectively a brand logo for his studio—yet produced by apprentices under his supervision. The poster for A Man Called Tone, for example, is signed by Somboonsuk though it was painted by Banhan Thaitanaboon.

23 February 2023

Tomorrow I Fuck with Yesterday Now!

Koraphat Cheeradit’s fascinating new short film begins with a young man stumbling around in a woodland. The aimless protagonist is filmed in a continuous take, with double-exposures constantly fading in and out. Birdsong and other bucolic, ambient sounds soon give way to a non-diegetic locomotive on the soundtrack, which gradually rises to a crescendo. Visually, this is matched by bursts of rapid-fire shots, each lasting for only a single frame, that are perceived only subliminally.

Some of these inserts are faux-naïf: white doves and heart emojis, symbolising peace and love. Other flash frames are more extreme: Koraphat juxtaposes sex and violence in split-second montages of anatomical drawings, erections, Ukrainian war casualties in Bucha, Nazi troops, and riot police firing water cannon at Thai protesters. These blink-and-you’ll-miss-them transgressions are in keeping with the film’s outré, Beam Wong-esque title: Tomorrow I Fuck with Yesterday Now! (ฉันแต่งงานกับปัจจุบัน ช่วยตัวเองด้วยเมื่อวาน และมีเพศสัมพันธ์กับวันพรุ่งนี้).

18 February 2023

Arcadia Rooftop Cinema


The Rooftop Cinema programme of open-air movie screenings that began in December 2022 at Bangkok’s Arcadia bar continues tomorrow with David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, the ne plus ultra of Cronenbergian ‘body horror’. (Arcadia showed another 1980s classic, Blade Runner, earlier this month.)

08 February 2023

Erotica Love Film

Erotica Love Film

The Esplanade cinema in Ratchada, Bangkok, is showing a short and rather racy programme of films to get audiences in the mood for Valentine’s Day. Their Erotica Love Film season begins tomorrow with Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, and runs until Valentine’s Day itself. Nymphomaniac will be screened in an extended director’s cut, in two parts on a double bill. It was previously shown at the Elle Men Film Festival in 2015.

06 February 2023

Tearing Down the Wall:
Controversy and Censorship in Thai Cinema

Tearing Down the Wall

Why does Thai soft power languish behind South Korea’s? That question has been asked repeatedly over the past few years, following the international successes of the Oscar-winning film Parasite (기생충) and the blockbuster Netflix series Squid Game (오징어 게임), the latest examples of a Korean wave (hallyu) that began in the 1990s. Tearing Down the Wall: Controversy and Censorship in Thai Cinema (ทลายกำแพง — ความขัดแย้งและการเซ็นเซอร์ในภาพยนตร์ไทย), a panel discussion held last week, proposed an intriguing strategy to boost Thailand’s soft power: make more controversial movies.

Director Martin Barshai, who introduced the event, argued that Thailand should emulate Korean cinema, which “shocks and entertains and says something political or socially outrageous.” The central motion of the debate, proposed by moderator Stefan Rustler, was: “in order for the film industry to mature and advance, more controversy needs to be realised.” (Director Nontawat Numbenchapol made a similar point in an interview for Thai Cinema Uncensored: “I’d love to do a controversial issue. But it would be hard to stay in Thailand if I do something controversial in the future, super-controversial.”)

One of the panellists at Tearing Down the Wall, director Anucha Boonyawatana, argued that legislative changes were needed to give directors the opportunity to make more provocative films. She advocated replacing state censorship with self-regulation—“change the [Film and Video] Act from control to support the Thai entertainment industry”—which the Free Thai Cinema Movement had called for in 2007. (Free Thai Cinema campaigned successfully for the introduction of the Film and Video Act, though this was a Pyrrhic victory, as the Act was drafted by the conservative Ministry of Culture, described by panellist Pasakorn Vanasirikul as “the bottom-barrel ministry”.)

Another panellist, Naruemon Chaingam, who has made several courageous investigative documentaries, highlighted the problem of criminal defamation that “prevents filmmakers, journalists, even artists from be[ing] authentic or telling the truth” and results in widespread self-censorship. In fact, the prevalence of self-censorship was demonstrated by Pasakorn, who couldn’t bring himself to say the words ‘article 112’—“I’m not gonna tell you what numbers that is”—that refer to the lèse-majesté (royal defamation) law.

Tearing Down the Wall took place on 2nd February on the rooftop of the Smalls bar in Bangkok. Controversial films may well draw an audience’s attention, as the debate motion suggested, though they also attract unwanted attention from the censors. In Thailand, that’s a rather high-risk strategy, though the panel ultimately concluded that it’s a risk worth taking.

03 February 2023


Tongpan Tongpan

Next week, on 7th February, there will be a screening of the classic independent film Tongpan (ทองปาน) at Noir Row Art Space in Udon Thani. (Tongpan has previously been shown at Cinema Oasis in 2018, at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre in 2017, and at the Thai Film Archive in 2016.)

Tongpan is a realistic dramatisation of a seminar that took place in 1975, which was organised to debate the construction of the Pa Mong dam on the Mekong river. The eponymous central character is a farmer who lost his land due to a previous dam. In the film, Sulak Sivaraksa makes an impassioned speech against the proposed dam: “Development only serves a few people in Bangkok... And what about the destruction of our country? The whole province of Loei will be flooded by this Pa Mong Dam.” Ultimately, the Pa Mong project was abandoned, though this was a Pyrrhic victory for environmental campaigners, as dozens of hydroelectric dams are currently under construction.

Tongpan was a product of the brief period of political freedom following the collapse of Thanom Kittikachorn’s dictatorship in 1973, though by the time filming had been completed in 1977, the military had seized power again, and the film was banned. Its prologue captures the optimism of 1973 (“A military junta fled into exile, and the students from the city went into the countryside to tell the farmers”), though this is contrasted by an epilogue that describes the return of military rule (“shortly after the shooting of this film, a violent coup d’etat of a magnitude never before seen in Thailand brought an end to Thailand’s three-year experiment with democracy”).

01 February 2023

Arcadia Rooftop Cinema
Blade Runner

Blade Runner

The Rooftop Cinema programme of open-air movie screenings that began in December 2022 at Bangkok’s Arcadia bar continues on 5th February with Ridley Scott’s science-fiction dystopia Blade Runner. (Arcadia’s ARC logo uses the same typeface as the Blade Runner poster, and some of the bar’s décor, designed by owner Todd Ruiz, was also inspired by the film. Scott’s neo-noir classic was previously shown at Bangkok Screening Room in 2017 and at Jam Café in 2019.)