SMDie News 8-6-2012
Shakespeare Goes to Parliament
Dear Cast & Crew, Family & Friends of Shakespeare Must Die,
Since we have now entered the legal process with the brilliant and kind help of the illustrious Ajarn Wasan Panich, I can’t tell you much but here’s some local colour.
On Wednesday 30th May at 10 am Manit, Boss Lady and I went to the National Human Rights Commission to file our case with Dr Niran Pitakvachara, chairman of their Citizens’ and Political Rights section. With the start of a new round of Puntamitr protests and the dramatic crisis inside parliament over the Reconciliation Bill, we were fully expecting to be forgotten. But amazingly, enough press came to encourage us in our sideshow fight for democracy with the censors.
In the afternoon we were supposed to go to the Senate House Committee on Rights and Freedom, Media Freedom and Consumer Protection, but because of the protest, they asked to postpone until the next day. So on Thursday (May 31st), despite the intensifying crisis, we set out to parliament, approaching sideways to park inside the zoo, and walked past Pink Flamingos (really) to the street in front of parliament, which was full of protesters. The gate was of course closed and the fence lined with cops. We told them we had an appointment and while they verified this, a woman protester with a happy grin pushed us forward eagerly, thinking we were an insanely brave group of protesters, and cheered us on (“Go for it! Go for it!”) with her handclapper. Very jolly outside, but the other side of the fence the atmosphere was tense. The cops along the fence were being reinforced. Parliament Club, where we went to wait to be summoned, was packed with khakhi cops, riot police and army units, including commandos, all waiting for their summons.
The meeting with Khun Somchai Sawaengarn, chairman of the Senate Rights and Freedom House, went well. He gave us time to explain everything despite the fact (as we later discovered from the headlines) that he was preparing for the big press conference about the Constitution Court. Interestingly, in contrast with the lack of transparency at the Ministry of Culture at every step from the Censors to the Film Board, I was permitted to record everything with my camera, at both the NHRC and inside the senator’s office, and not only me but the press as well, which I think just sums it up.
When we emerged from the lift down from the senator’s office, the protesters’ roar came surging through the opening lift doors. (Too bad we didn’t have this tremendous sound for the movie, but now we have it in stock.) I don’t just mean the noise from the stage but from the crowd, which had in the meantime grown enormously. We were told we could not leave through the gate we entered, which was now barricaded with razor wire and riot police with shields. There was a tense stand-off. We went to the small plaza below King Rama 7 statue to wait it out along with the army of press; this is a raised mound that gave us a good view, like watching an epic unfold in an amphitheatre. Suddenly PAD leaders Chamlong, Somkiatr and Tua Saranyoo were let in through the gate to hand a letter to the government; they headed straight to where we were standing. Despite the melee, we got to say a quick hello to Tua (a good friend of both my sister and our First Witch). Some of you may know that before I put out the casting call in Bioscope and cast Khun Boy Pisarn the deputy mayor of Pimai as our leading man, I first offered the role of Mekhdeth to him, thinking what fun it would be to have a PAD leader play the prototype of Thaksin. I thought he might’ve enjoyed it as therapy. (Plus he’s an A-list movie star). Lucky thing it didn’t work out. Otherwise, can you imagine?
After they left, we tried to leave by the other (“Castle”) gate, where Dr Tul’s multi-coloured protesters were, surrounded by razor wire and soldiers. The only way back to the car was to walk a very long way round back to the zoo. It was just after 2 pm and hot as hell, so we decided to try our luck with the front gate again. After some pleading, they let us out, opening the gate the tiniest crack for us to squeeze out (a bit tough on our dear Boss Lady). Guess who was right there in front of the gate on the other side? Madame Bang-orn, our fearless housekeeper, in her old yellow T-shirt, holding her clapper and umbrella, all by her courageous self. She was both thrilled and shocked to see us emerge from ‘Enemy Territory’, but still refused to forsake Puntamitr for a comfortable ride home. She had asked for the day off to save the country, but I never imagined we’d find each other among thousands of people. (Orn is in the movie—she didn’t need any coaching as she plays an anti-Mekhdeth protester. She was also in My Teacher Eats Biscuits as a lottery-crazed ashram worker, which means she’s also been banned twice along with Fiona and me.)
Indeed, you wouldn’t believe it in a movie script. We appealed for justice for our film, preventively banned for its potential to cause divisiveness, a moral disgrace to the patriotic dignity of the nation, from a parliament surrounded by the encroaching Birnam hordes protesting the Reconciliation Bill that’s being rammed down our throats. But the Mekhdeth of this true unfolding tragedy is in far-flung Dubai, in the great Arabian Sands. No perfume nor reconciliation bill exists that could ever sweeten his bloody hands.
With love from your director,
8 June 2012, Bangkok