Thailand Lifts Ban on Local Documentary ‘Boundary’
Just two days after declaring Thai director Nontawat Numbenchapol’s film Boundary "a threat to national security and international relations,” Thailand’s government censors have reversed course and cleared the film for domestic release.
Nontawat says he was contacted by the government’s Film and Video Board late Thursday and told the ban issued on Tuesday was a “technical mistake.” That verdict was issued by a subcommittee, they said, which lacks the authority to make such judgments. The board said they rescreened the film on Thursday afternoon and found it unobjectionable, approving it for screening in Thailand for audiences of 18 years and above.
The board also told the director that, according to protocol, filmmakers are supposed to be given a chance to formally defend their work before a ban is announced. That didn’t happen on Tuesday. Nontawat says the board apologized for the oversight.
A modestly budgeted art-house doc, Boundary premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in February.
The film focuses on a soldier who took part in the government crackdown on the “red shirt” political upheaval in Bangkok in 2010 and follows him to his hometown along the Thailand-Cambodia border, an area of ongoing dispute between the two countries. Nontawat’s treatment of these two sensitive political topics appeared to be the cause of the sub-committee’s concern when they issued the ban Tuesday.
The Film and Video board did request one small cut to Boundary on Thursday, however. They asked the director to remove two seconds of ambient sound in an early scene showing a New Year’s celebration in Bangkok, where an MC can be heard announcing from a stage: “Let’s count down to celebrate [His Majesty] the King’s 84th anniversary.” The censors expressed concerns that this scene might lead to misinterpretation, Nontawat said.
Thailand is home to the world’s longest sitting monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a figure revered throughout the country. Thailand has some of the world’s strictest lese-majeste laws, which prohibit any public disparagement of the royal family.
Nontawat said the sound has no significance to his story so he agreed to mute it. Apart from these two seconds, the film remains intact.
The director is now working to revive his former plans for a limited domestic release.