After premiering at the Berlin Film Festival last year and being selected as the opening film for the Salaya International Documentary Film Festival on Apr 1, independent documentary Boundary became the latest film (following Tanwarin Sukhapisit’s Insects In The Backyard and Ing K’s Shakespeare Must Die) to receive a countrywide ban. However, after further discussions, the board of censors then reversed their decision, as long as Nontawat agreed to muting some dialogue. BK had a chat with director Nontawat Numbenchapol about the film’s content and the media storm surrounding his first full-length feature.
What exactly is Boundary about?
The inspiration for Boundary came from the unrest in Bangkok back in 2010. I’d never really cared much about the protests until then, when I saw how it truly affects us all, including through people’s reactions on social media. I met a soldier who volunteered in the three southernmost provinces of Thailand and was called to Bangkok to help break up the protests. I followed him to his hometown in Sisaket, which lies at the heart of the Thai-Cambodia political dispute over Preah Vihear Temple, where I started to shoot footage for Boundary. Talking to the villagers and observing the situation, I realized things were very different from what got told on the news. I didn’t want to tell a one-sided story, though, so I crossed the border into Cambodia for another perspective. Basically, Boundary acts as the medium to bring the untold story of Preah Vihear into the public sphere—something that the title also refers to.
Have you experienced any governmental intervention before?
Not directly, only from seeing what happened to other filmmakers like Tanwarin Sukapisit with Insects in the Backyard and [director of photography] Manit Sriwanichapoom’s Shakespeare Must Die.
Did you have any idea that it would be banned?
To be honest, I really didn’t expect that the film would be banned as it had already screened at the Salaya International Documentary Film Festival where it received a positive response. Some people who watched it even told me that it’s a film that all Thai people should watch, because while it presents different lines of thought, the underlying message is that we can make compromises and live together.
What did the censorship board say about the ban?
In the letter, the committee said that the method used to tell the story is inappropriate as it’s contradictory to what appeared in court. They concluded by saying that the film could lead to the instability of Thai-Cambodia relations. But I feel the opposite. Personally, I believe it will create a better understanding of the problem.
You decided to appeal against the decision?
I didn’t think the film should be banned at all. I requested the 18+ rating for Boundary, because people that age are mature enough to understand right and wrong, as they have the right to vote. To ban such a film is to look down on the intellect of your people. You might be afraid that the content could lead to an international dispute—but, personally, I believe disagreement and civilized debate can help develop this country.
But they then reversed their decision?
I think the reaction on social media helped me to get people’s attention giving me the chance to speak out and share my experiences regarding the film. I then received a call from the censorship board saying that the original decision was not from the board but a sub-committee. The board watched the film and just asked me to mute the sound for two seconds at the beginning of the film (which said “Let’s celebrate 84th Birthday of HM The King”). I agreed to do it as it’s actually not the main part of the film and it won’t change the message without that sentence. Now my next step is talking to the theaters to try and finalize the screening schedule.