by Jim Ridley
on Thu, Apr 19, 2007 at 3:39 PM
At the Nashville Film Festival 2 p.m. Sunday, audiences will get to see Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes and a Century uncut and intact—which is more than viewers in the director's native Thailand can say. Controversy flared last week when the Thai Board of Censors demanded four scenes be cut from the film, causing the director to cancel its release.
Making the story even stranger is the whimsical nature of the cuts. According to the Bangkok Post via the Limitless Cinema site, the controversial scenes show "a young monk playing a guitar, a group of doctors drinking whisky in a hospital basement, a doctor kissing his girlfriend in a hospital locker room, and two monks playing with a radio-controlled flying saucer." Slap that sucker with an NC-17 for sure.
Typical of the thinking behind the cuts is this quote from a medical-council representative who voiced physicians' misgivings about the movie. "Drinking whisky in a hospital is not proper conduct by medical professionals," Supawat Pothong told the Post.
Weerasethakul's website, Kick the Machine, contains a "Free Thai Cinema" petition to the Thai government and the National Legislative Assembly asking that a ratings system comparable to the U.S.'s replace the current censorship board. An excerpt:
"I, a filmmaker, treat my works as my own sons or my daughters. When I conceived them, they have their own lives to live. I don't mind if people are fond of them, or despise them, as long as I created them with my best intentions and efforts. If these offspring of mine cannot live in their own country for whatever reasons, let them be free. Since there are other places that warmly welcome them as who they are, there is no reason to mutilate them from the fear of the system, or from greed. Otherwise there is no reason for one to continue making art."
UPDATE: Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul sends a message via email to those attending the Nashville Film Festival: "I appreciate your support, and so happy the film will show there. I wish the screening in Nashville best of success. I [wish] I could go! I am in L.A., I haven't seen much of America and would always love to drive around.... Please have a good time with the festival."