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Thai helmers lob protest.

BANGKOK In Thailand, the government doesn't seem to realize that the film biz has evolved in the past 70 years or so. In fact, the country's Film Act dates back to 1930 and the pre-democratic era.

While the military-backed junta has done plenty to make itself look like a force of reactionary conservatism in the seven months since it came to power, it may now have a chance to display some liberal leanings by helping modernize the film industry.

Censorship is the most contentious issue. But unlike more repressive regimes, in Thailand, media such as newspapers, TV and radio are relatively free of censorship. Only motion pictures, which are not classified as a form of mass media, are so strictly regulated.

The issue came to a head recently when the Censorship Board demanded that director Apichatpong Weerasethakul cut scenes from prize-winning "Syndromes and a Century." The director refused to make the cuts and withdrew his film from commercial release. Responding to the controversy, a group of filmmakers formed the Free Thai Cinema Movement, co-founded by the Thai Film Foundation, Thai Directors Assn. and Bioscope magazine.

The Free Thai Cinema Movement is asking the government, as it draws up a new constitution, to officially classify movies as a recognized form of mass media.

"Film is the only part of the chain that has been left out," says Prachya Pinkaew, the multihyphenate filmmaker of "Ong-Bak" and "The Protector."

Government is now preparing to submit a new draft of the Film Act to parliament after years of neglect from previous regimes. However, according to sources, the draft law has been written by lawmakers who have only limited understanding of the film industry. And the final draft has not been opened to review or consultation with the industry.

Prince Chatrichalerm Yukol, a member of the royal family and the helmet responsible for the boffo "King Naresuan," joined other directors in submitting a separate petition asking for similar recognition.

"The new film act will definitely contain a rating system, and it will try to incorporate the public and industry in the process of categorizing each film," says a Culture Ministry rep.

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Author:Rithdee, Kong
Geographic Code:9THAI
Date:May 7, 2007
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