Thailand’s film censors have upset the release of local horror movie “Hoon Payon,” which should have arrived in cinemas March 9.
The film had a successful world premiere screening on March 7 at a gala in Bangkok. But censors have since intervened to demand five scenes be cut and to impose a 20+ rating on the Five Star Production picture.
The rating means that spectators must be age 20 or older, thus excluding the film’s key teenage demographic, and it obliges cinema operators to check the ID cards of all patrons.
The film’s story involves a man who travels to a village in a border region where his brother, a novice Buddhist monk, has been accused of murder. As more bodies pile up, the man questions the villagers’ blind faith in a supposedly protective doll or mannequin.
The scenes that have caused offense involve the fictional monk engaging in heated arguments and the embrace of an older woman, who may or may not be his mother.
“Cinema operators have told us that they do not understand this ‘20+’ rating and have asked us to appeal against it. We have already made the edits and have submitted our appeal,” a spokesman for Five Star, one of Thailand’s oldest film studios, told Variety.
“This film had been licensed widely, and distributors in 13 territories had arranged simultaneous releases. They have held off releasing until we have a new release date. Hopefully soon,” said the spokesman.
The Thai Film Directors Assn. also protested the de facto ban, saying that such actions are restrictive of people’s rights and damaging to the film industry. In a Facebook post, the organization called for reform of the Film Law, which gives bureaucrats such substantial power over what people watch.
While Buddhism is not legally defined as the country’s official religion, Thai authorities have repeatedly targeted films and TV shows that depict monks displaying anything but saintly behavior. Cannes-winning Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s 2006 film “Syndromes and a Century” was previously banned for showing a fictional monk playing a guitar and a scene in which two doctors kissed. In 2018, TV show “Thi Baan” was censored due to a scene in which a Buddhist monk cries over the death of a former girlfriend.
The axis between authority, the Buddhist religion and the monarchy goes to the heart of the country’s conservative political bedrock, and seemingly cannot be touched.
But Thai censorship is also selective — there are real-world Thai monks who have TikTok accounts and others who preside over fabulously wealthy temples but appear to escape criticism — and film censorship is inconsistent.
“Hoon Payon” director Phontharis Chotkijsadarsopon, screenwriter Adirek Phothong and Five Star have all previously delivered a string of films in the same genre, including “Pee Nak,” “Pee Nak 2,” “Pee Nak 3,” “Still” and “Ghost Ship.”
“We don’t understand the 20+ rating, nor why this particular film has been targeted,” said Five Star.
The film’s cast includes Phuwin Tangsakyuen, Kunatip Pinpradab, Poompat Iam-samang, Bhuripat Vejvongsatechavat, Thasorn Klinnium, Pannawit Pattanasiri, Waratthip Kittisiripaisan and Phongsakon Michai.