On Apr 3, the Thai Film Censorship Board, under the Department of Cultural Promotion of the Ministry of Culture, banned Shakespeare Must Die, a film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It was said the film “causes divisiveness among the people of the nation.” Ironically, the movie had been funded by the Ministry of Culture’s Creative Thailand Project under the previous government. The day after the ban, we spoke to director Ing K (Citizen Juling) and director of photography Manit Sriwanichpoom (of the Pink Man photography series fame).

BK: You’ve just had your movie banned. What happens now?
MS:
We have to make an appeal within 15 days. We have to draft a statement. We have to explain that we are not a threat to national security. We are not causing any divides. Why is Macbeth a threat to any nation?
IK: I read Macbeth when I was 15, doing my O-levels for school. All over the world, kids can recite the witches’ chant. So why? It’s absurd?

BK: But this is a particular interpretation of Macbeth. You make the connection to Thailand’s history and politics pretty clear. There’s the scene where someone is beaten by a chair…
IK:
Yes, the October 6 massacre. Everyone looks at our film through the prism of Thai politics. Recently, a Shakespearean professor saw the film. And it was so refreshing. Because he saw it from the Shakespearean perspective. And it is about Shakespeare. I’m not doing Shakespeare as a gimmick. I really do love Shakespeare. He is like religion to me. He studies pathologies of the mind. Othello is about jealousy. Macbeth is about megalomania. It’s not just about Thaksin. Thaksin is not the only megalomaniac in this country. Every village has a megalomaniac. This whole country is a victim of megalomania. We live in fear. And this ban proves it.

BK: So it is political.
IK:
I’m a filmmaker. I find it very odd that people say, this is not fair to the Red Shirts, this is not fair to the Royalists… We get it from both sides by the way. All this is nonsense. We are talking about a horror movie! A Shakespearean horror movie. This is about fanatics. How Thai society can just erupt into Rwanda 1994. It’s happened before and it can happen again. If the hatemongers and propagandists continue to make our lives insane. Why is it that people are not demanding truth and neutrality from say Newsweek. Newsweek said Yingluck is as great as Aung Saan Suu Kyi, Hilary Clinton. Demand accountability from media outlets. But this is a horror movie. It’s about what scares us.

BK: A political horror movie.
IK:
But what does that mean? Political? This is about living in a country ruled by fear. I don’t want to live in a country ruled by fear, under anybody. It is so simple.

BK: If your appeal does succeed, will screening be an issue?
IK:
They [move theaters] are terrified. Everyone is living in terror. We don’t know. We’re not fortune tellers. And by then we don’t even know if the country will still be standing. Seriously. Any moment, things can go completely berserk.

BK: Is this movie art for art’s sake, or are you looking for a reaction from the audience?
Manit:
We want national self-examination.
Ing K: This film, last film, any film. That’s what it’s about. I’m not fighting Thaksin, Red Shirts, anything. I am fighting the propaganda, all the ads, on the BTS, washing over your brain all the time. We don’t want to show something that makes people feel like they’re not human unless they buy this or live like this, we want something that makes them think and have discussions.

BK: Are censors saying reconciliation is filmmakers’ responsibility?
IK:
Reconciliation is such a dirty word.
MS: When we met the committee of censors. That is the first thing they said, “We are in a climate of reconciliation. We feel this film might cause a problem.” What are they talking about? Reconciliation of what? This film will cause what? This film can cause social unrest? This is a film about greed. Reconciliation with who? First you have to ask, what is the problem? Only one side can talk and the other group must shut up. How can they call this reconciliation? Even Thaksin’s brother says, “Don’t listen to the minority. The majority vote is key.” This is not democracy. You have to accept every voice, even voices you don’t like it.
IK: How many people are going to see it? Let’s say it opens at House. 100?

BK: So what are they afraid of [if no one will see it]?
MS:
They’re afraid of their boss.
IK: There’s a lot of self-censorship. The censors, just because they’re censors, it doesn’t mean they don’t feel the fear.
MS: We should be afraid, not the censors. If people get angry, we will be held responsible. But they say, “Oh but we are responsible, too.”
IK: People are scared of Thaksin like he’s a boogeyman. Like he’s hardly a human anymore. If he’s going to come after anyone, surely it would be the filmmakers, not the censors.

BK: Well, in that hypothesis, wouldn’t Thaksin hold the censors accountable for letting your film be screened?
MS:
Then they are under influence. When you make a judgment, you cannot be under any influence, even if it is fear. Otherwise, you cannot deliver a proper judgment.
IK: And 3 out of 7 of the censors didn’t sign the order.
MS: They took almost 15 days to come up with the verdict. They had a long debate. Some thought giving the 20+ age rating is enough. But the committee has their own ego. They’re worried that film directors will become fearless, that they won’t be afraid of the censorship board. So they give them a lesson.

BK: Would the previous government have approved this movie?
MS:
Yes, I think so, because they gave us the money! We had to show the script, we had to show the regicide. But now we’re stuck between both sides.
IK: It’s like we don’t exist. We are not red, not yellow, not anything. We have no media voice. In between, there is a big group that keeps silent. We are in fact the majority.
MS: We explore the dark side of humans. We don’t explore the system, the monarchy, the republic… No matter the system. Megalomania is the source of corruption. We go to the roots. You can change the whole system, but if that thing is still there, nothing has changed.
IK: Whoever rules by fear, I don’t want to live under them. It’s about fear, about horror.
MS: We go really deep into the human psyche. That is why the committee is so uncomfortable. We asked, “How can we change the movie to be acceptable?” They said, “Just improve it.” I don’t know what they want. So vague. But you go there and you see them and you know, they are terrified by our stuff. Petrified. They admitted they couldn’t sleep after seeing it.
IK: You don’t realize that Thai people are living in fear. That is so basic to us at this moment that we can’t even talk about anything if you don’t realize that we do. Everybody. Such fear.

BK: Would you be ready to edit the movie according to the censor?
IK:
No.
MS: If they come up with…
IK: I’m not! Are you serious?
MS: We don’t close the door. Tell us what you want. We can change if it will make the film better to make the film better. If it makes it worse, no way.
IK: If it’s their idea of better, which means insipid, less potent. No way.

BK: Didn’t you see it coming, the ban?
IK:
No! A 20+ rating maybe.