Court upholds ban on “Shakespeare Must Die”

After five years of a court battle, the producer and director of the Thai-language film “Shakespeare Must Die” are disappointed when the Central Administrative Court on Friday (Aug 11) issued a ruling to uphold the ban on the film imposed by a censorship committee.

The petition was filed on Aug 9, 2012 by two petitioners — producer Manit Sriwanichpoom and director Samanrat Kanjanavanit– against the National Film and Video Censorship Board, the 3rd film and video censorship committee and the Cultural Promotion Department of the Culture Ministry, asking the Central Administrative Court to order the lifting of the ban imposed by the 3rd film and video censorship committee.

The 3rd film and video censorship committee issued an order on April 3, 2012 to ban the film from being shown in the country.

The Central Administrative Court ruled that the censorship committee imposed the ban because some parts of the film’s content may cause disunity among the people in the country, after deliberation.

Although the petitioners claimed that the country in the film is fictional, several scenes in the film reflected the Thai social condition and an event which happened in Thailand.

Samanrat Kanjanavanit

The censorship committee found one scene to have resembled the violent incident which took place on October 6, 1976.  In the scene, a group of men wore black shirts and wrapped a piece of red cloth around their heads, each holding a piece of wood, ran into a theatre where a play was being performed and hurt members of the audience, actors and actresses.  They hanged the director.  A man, wearing a pair of black glasses, beat the hanged director with an iron folding chair, amid cheering from the men with red cloth around their heads.

The committee found that this could cause resentment and dissatisfaction among the relatives or participants of that event and lead to hatred and disunity among the people in the country.

On April 3, 2012, when the 3rd film and video censorship committee and the two petitioners held a joint meeting, the committee told them make some changes to that controversial scene, Mr Manit and Ms Samanrat insisted that they could not do so because it could affect the main content of the film as well as the producer’ attempt to show the audience the bright and dark sides of human-beings, sins, the fight between the good and evil in men’s minds.

The Central Administrative Court stated that although film production is an occupation protected by the constitution, such right and freedom is still restricted by Section 29 of the Film and Video Act of 2008 which stipulates that a film must not go against law and order, national security and the country’s prestige.

The ban imposed by the 3rd film and video censorship committee on the film was not a restriction of rights and freedom of expression under Section 45 of the constitution, it said.

The court ruled that the censorship committee’s ban on the film is lawful and dismissed the petition.

The making of Shakespeare Must Die is party funded by the government and won several awards in international film festivals.  The film is an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, written about 400 years ago.  It is a story on a warrior who was imbued with power and led the country to catastrophe.

Mr Manit, the producer, and Ms Samanrat, the director, fought for five years to get the ban lifted, but are not successful. They plan to appeal against the court’s ruling.