Changes proposed to Thai film censorship law

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Asia / Pacific Roundabout

A local academic has called on Thailand’s National Board of Film and Video (NBFV) to put a stop to banning certain movies, improve film censorship guidelines, and revise the existing film rating system.

Speaking at a seminar in early February, Ruksarn Viwatsinudom, a communications professor at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, said the 2008 Film and Video Act, which governs film censorship, should be adjusted to better reflect the needs of a modern society.

He suggested reducing the current seven film rating levels to five—possibly four—and setting clearer guidelines about what movie producers are allowed to show onscreen and what they cannot, especially with regards to scenes of sex, drug abuse and violence.

The current seven-tier rating system is divided into educational film, films for a general audience, age restrictions 13, 15, 18 and 20, and films banned from public screening.

The professor argued that age restrictions 13 and 15 should be scrapped, because these two age groups were in fact not so different in their mental development and thus could just as well be integrated into the rating category “Films for a general audience.”

He also recommended that banning certain films should be abolished altogether, as the practice is not conducive to fostering an open-minded society.

Thailand currently bans public screenings of a number of foreign movies, including (but not restricted to) The King and I (1956), Anna and the King and Brokedown Palace (both 1999), as they’re either perceived to paint an inaccurate picture of the country or are deemed insulting to the highly revered monarchy.

The professor also voiced concern that the current NBFV board mainly comprised government officials and proposed it should instead be made up of filmmakers and other industry professionals, as well as academics, teachers and even parents.

While the NBFV has reportedly agreed to consider the suggested amendments to the rating system and the censorship guidelines, the body flat-out rejected relinquishing its power to ban movies, saying instead that the reasons for any ban always would be clearly posted and announced publicly.

Hong Kong to Bolster Film Fund

Hong Kong’s financial secretary John Tsang said during his annual budget speech on Feb. 25 that his government would bolster the Film Development Fund of Hong Kong (FDF) with an additional HKD200 million ($25.8 mil.).

At the same time, the budget ceiling for an FDF-sponsored movie would be increased from the current HKD15 million (or up to 35% of the total budget) to HKD25 million, he said.

Furthermore, the fund would also initiate a financial-support program for film projects that cost less than HKD10 million to make. They could receive a subsidy of up to HKD2 million.

Productions that apply for funding assistance must have secured third-party financing to cover the remaining cost, must be commercially viable and contribute towards the development of Hong Kong’s film industry, and must employ at least one permanent Hong Kong resident in a major creative role, including acting.

The fund frequently also subsidizes events and activities not directly related to film production, such as film festivals and industry symposiums. or covers cost for sending officials and production crews to attend film festivals abroad.

This extra funding had triggered heavy criticism in October 2012 when the Government Audit Commission disclosed that only 28% of the available funds went towards supporting film productions, while the remainder had been spent on other projects.

Japanese Consortium Buys Out SDI Media

A Japanese consortium comprising the government-run Cool Japan Fund, investment firm Sumitomo Corporation and post-production company Imagica Robot Holdings Inc. has acquired SDI Media Central Holdings Corporation for a reported $160 million.

SDI currently operates in 37 countries, where it provides movie localization services such as film subtitling and soundtrack dubbing in more than 80 languages.

“SDI’s large global network and its client base will help reduce the cost of localizing Japanese content in other territories, open new markets for Japanese content and speed up distribution,” the Cool Japan Fund announced in a statement released to the media.

The statement also said the fund would contribute $59.5 million as its share of the $160 million acquisition price tag, with the remainder being borne by the other two consortium members.

The Cool Japan Fund was launched in the last quarter of 2013 by Japan’s government to spread Japanese pop culture outside the country. It has since invested in eight other projects, including the building of a “Japan Food Town” in Singapore’s prime shopping district, Orchard Road.

Taiwan Charges Netizens over Illegal Downloading

More than 200 internet users in Taiwan have been charged under the country’s copyright laws for illegally downloading copies of 2014 action flick Black and White: The Dawn of Justice, a Taiwan-China co-production, local newspapers reported. This is the first time the country’s Copyright Act has been enforced on such a large scale and for copyright infringements against a single movie.

The law enforcement was reportedly initiated after local production company Prajna Works Entertainment Co. Ltd. had discovered that its film had been downloaded via Internet site BitTorrent more than 20,000 times since the movie’s release in Taiwan on Oct. 2, 2014. This apparently prompted the studio to hire a private investigator to trace the torrent’s source and determine the logged IP addresses of a select number of domestic downloaders, which were then submitted to the district prosecutor’s office in Taiwan’s capital Taipei.

As a result, more than 200 people have been charged in recent weeks, with the cases being handled by Taiwan’s Intellectual Property Office. If convicted, violators could face up to three years’ imprisonment and additionally be fined up to NTD750,000 ($23,850).

For inquiries and feedback, contact Thomas Schmid at thomas.schmid@filmjournal.com.