Filmmakers of controversial Thai horror movie demand censors reverse decision (video)

The filmmakers of a controversial Thai horror movie banned by censors demanded they reverse the decision and hand more freedom to motion picture directors and producers.

The Thai Film Censorship Board banned the horror flick Hoon Payon, slated for release in cinemas today, because of five “inappropriate” scenes that are said to be offensive toward the Buddhist faith.

Censors demanded that the movie’s makers, Five Star Production, remove or rework five scenes from the film, reported Coconuts. The scenes in question depict one of the film’s main protagonists, a novice monk, engaging in physical altercations, heated debates, and even embracing a woman, whom some viewers claim is his mother.

Physical contact between a monk and a woman is viewed as highly taboo within the Buddhist community. Although Buddhism is not legally recognized as the state’s official religion, actions that are perceived to insult it are strictly prohibited by law.

The censorship board labelled these scenes as potentially “divisive” and “insulting” to Buddhism. It stated that, should the filmmakers decide to cut the controversial scenes, the film will be given a rating of 20+. This would prevent anyone under the age of 20 from viewing the film in cinemas.

This ruling sparked a heated debate amongst members of the film community, with some criticizing the censorship board’s decision as a violation of artistic freedom. Others argue that, given the cultural sensitivity of the subject matter, the decision was justified.

Director Phontharis “Mike” Chotkijsadarsopon was left confused by the ruling.

“How does my film insult Buddhism? We worked so hard for this film, and every character has their own reasons for their actions. We didn’t add these scenes to insult anything.”

The Association of Thai Film Directors also slammed the censors’ decision.

“The order coming from a small group of people did not only affect the filmmakers and crew, but also the audience, whose freedom is stifled by being prevented from watching a movie.”

The association demanded that the industry be reformed to “return freedom” to filmmakers, allowing them to produce works that audiences can judge for themselves.

Thailand has a long history of censoring movies, with state censors retaining full authority to decide which films are allowed to be screened. Although a rating system was introduced in 2009, many foreign and domestic films have still been banned over the years. In 2018, the series Thi Baan was banned due to a scene depicting a monk crying over the death of a former girlfriend.

Hoon Payon revolves around Tham, a teenager who travels to a temple where his brother is ordained as a monk. Upon arrival, Tham learns that his brother has fled after allegedly killing an abbot. The film depicts a series of violent events that terrorise the village.

Despite the censorship, Hoon Payon premiered at the Major Cineplex Ratchayothin cinema in Bangkok today. The event was accompanied by a Q&A session with the film’s creators and actors.

The calls for reform within Thailand’s film industry are likely to continue as filmmakers and industry professionals seek greater creative freedom and autonomy.

It remains to be seen how Five Star Production will respond to the censors’ demands but it appears that they’re stuck between a rock and hard place.

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Bob Scott

Bob Scott is an experienced writer and editor with a passion for travel. Born and raised in Newcastle, England, he spent more than 10 years in Asia. He worked as a sports writer in the north of England and London before relocating to Asia. Now he resides in Bangkok, Thailand, where he is the Editor-in-Chief for The Thaiger English News. With a vast amount of experience from living and writing abroad, Bob Scott is an expert on all things related to Asian culture and lifestyle.

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