Maker of banned film determined to fight censorship, 'autocratic culture'
Although it has been banned since April, the co-producer of the film "Shakespeare Must Die", Manit Sriwanithpoom, continues his campaign to overturn the Film Board's decision, which was based on fears that the satirical work would be interpreted as a criticism of Thaksin Shinwatra, inflaming social divisions. Manit talked to The Nation on Sunday's Pravit Rojanaphruk about the road ahead. Excerpts follow.
What do you think is the real reason behind the banning of the film?
I think the [Film Board] members fear that it will affect the image of Thaksin and mock him, but they won't say it. It's like when we're in a state of fear, we tend not to mention the name of the person we are afraid of.
Should a film that risks causing social division be censored? Why or why not?
We must look at the context. Thai society is beyond what any film can or cannot do. The society is already divided. I don't think the film is capable of making it more divided. Mostly, the rift that is happening today stems from politicians.
In the case of the National Reconciliation Bill, it turned the Parliament into a forum for division and this had nothing to do with the movie.
If they think the movie defames Thaksin, then lets prove it in court by filing a libel charge against me. I am ready and willing to fight it in court.
What does the banning of your film tell us about Thai society?
It reflects the fact that Thai society is still fragile on virtually every issue. So when something similar to the real situation is told it causes uneasiness and overreaction.
It could be a journalist who constructively criticises the monarchy institution, who has fallen into a [legal] net.
Overreaction comes from all sides, be it Pheu Thai or the Democrat Party. This reflects the insecurity of power.
What is your next move?
The National Human Rights Commission will release a statement no later than [mid-July]. We consider the use of power without proper reason to constitute a [rights] violation. It took no less than two to three years to produce the film, and one meeting and a piece of paper to ban it. We shall use the statement by the NHRC to petition the Administrative Court [to revoke the ban].
We must be open-minded but we aren't, because we don't have a democratic culture. Today, we only have an autocratic culture. We must open up space for differing opinions, be patient and tolerant. Censorship is a product of the lack of a democratic culture.
[The film] may seem amoral, but only [to those with] a set morality. We must be open to different views and try to understand the reasons why people think differently.