Director protests ban from Bangkok fest

'Children of the Dark' removed from festival lineup

BANGKOK -- The Japanese director of a film about child trafficking and prostitution in Thailand on Tuesday protested the Bangkok International Film Festival's removal of the film from its lineup.

On the opening day of the sixth annual Bangkok fest, Junji Sakamoto, the director of "Children of the Dark" -- which organizers last week barred from screening in the festival on the grounds that it lacked the proper permits -- announced a news conference for Wednesday.

"This film must be shown (to) all of the world, especially in Thailand for the children's future," Sakamoto said in a statement. "To stop this film is the same as shutting children's futures, also shutting the future in the country."

Festival artistic director Yongyoot Thongkongtoon told The Hollywood Reporter that the ban of the Thai-Japanese co-production was more about the subject matter and the image problem it represents for Thailand.

"It was hard to make the decision," Thongkongtoon said. "I think the film was well-made and it's complicated. It's a very sensitive issue, and I think we as a society need to have more time to have a discussion about it. We need to educate people more about it first."

The ban makes this year's festival the second in a row to drop a film invited to screen.

At the 2007 festival, organizers canceled the opening-day screening of "Persepolis," an animated film about growing up in Iran, because of fears that it might roil ongoing tensions in Thailand's predominantly Muslim south.

The fest soft-launched Tuesday with Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona." The gala opening for the eight-day, 78-film event is set for Friday and will feature a screening of "Queens of Langkasuka" by Thai director Nonzi Nimibutr.

Organizers said this month that "Queens" would open the festival. However, Thongkongtoon said Tuesday that the start of the Thailand Entertainment Expo on Wednesday as an unofficial film market delayed "Queens" until Friday, when stars are expected to walk the red carpet. On Tuesday, most guests were Thai, and the festival showed little evidence of an international presence.