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Gay sex on film? No problem. Baring political rifts, problem.

Live and let live in Thailand. Except when one gay man is Buddhist, and the other is Muslim.

The Muslim crackdown footage, he said, was already familiar from TV news. “It was brave to incorporate the footage, because it had not been shown legally in Thailand for several years,” Hunt said.

For Thunksa, the film is an unusual detour into hardcore politics. Most of his films focus on gay life in Thailand. Though the culture is tolerant of homosexuality, Thunksa said, pop culture is still uncomfortable depicting gays seriously. “TV and movies turn them into clowns,” he said.

“Quarantine” is the first film to run afoul of a new film rating system overseen by the Ministry of Culture. To be shown inside Thailand, each film must be viewed by a panel that ranks the movie on a seven-point scale.

Films deemed to have an “ethical high ground” receive official government support. Films with various levels of violence or lewdity are restricted by age. But the harshest rank, seven, is reserved for films that deride respected people or institutions or compromise national security.

“Quarantine” was forced to withdraw from its most high profile screening yet, this week’s World Film Festival of Bangkok. Culture ministry censors have “banned” the movie, festival organizers said, by refusing to give it any rating at all. The ministry claims the non-rating — which still bars the film from being shown — is the outcome of a paperwork snafu.

“Quarantine” is the first high-profile battle between Thai directors and censors since “Syndromes and a Century,” a highly acclaimed 2007 film. Government censors insisted the director remove scenes that showed doctors drinking whiskey, a monk strumming a guitar and monks playing with electronic toys. (Buddhist monks are forbidden from playing with gadgets or musical instruments.)

The director, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, refused to cut the film. While effectively banned in Thailand, the film was seen internationally, ranking in Newsweek’s and The Boston Globe’s top 10 best films of 2007 lists. Apichatpong eventually showed the film in Thailand, but replaced the banned scenes with several minutes of pitch blackness.

“Right now, there’s a huge push from the government to approve movies that preserve Thailand’s good image,” said Thunksa. “The truth is, I’m not trying to tear down the country. I’m just presenting the truth.”

In protest, Thunksa and other directors are now collaborating on a film specifically written to earn the most severe rating possible from the Ministry of Culture, he said.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/thailand/091106/did-gay-sex-get-film-banned-thailand-or-was-it-politics