Debate on censorship in place of banned films

THE ability of Thurrock Council to have ‘educated, cultural and artistic conversations’ was questioned at a debate on censorship held after the authority to decided to ban two films from this weekend’s Thurrock International Celebration of Film.

The debate was symbolically held in the time slot originally reserved at Thameside Theatre, where the two films had been scheduled to be screened. It covered issues such as censorship, as well as the importance of diversity in the film industry and the panel included a number of film academics and Thurrock residents.

‘Jungle Love’ (Phillipines, 2012) and ‘Shadows of Fiendish Ancestress And Occasionally Parajanov On Durian Cialis (Lesser #9)’ (Singapore, 2017) were banned by Thurrock Council, on the grounds of their assessment of the film to be R18. The R18 classification only allows such films to be screened in ‘licensed sex premises’, therefore preventing its screening at the Thameside Theatre.

The Thurrock Independent understands the ban was put in force after two council officers, whose regular duties include checking taxi and private hire licences, were ordered to view the films by the council’s chief executive Lyn Carpenter. Having heard their views on the film the decision was made to ban them.

We understand from a reliable source at the theatre it is not the first time that Ms Carpenter has been involved in censorship issues at the Thameside. In January this year she reportedly made an abortive attempt to stop a scheduled performance by the male striptease act ‘Forbidden Nights‘ but protests by the theatre management and the costs of cancelling a booked act meant the show went ahead. However, we understand the theatre has been instructed not to book such acts – which regularly appear at municipal theatres across the country – again.

“It appears there is a puritanical view in sway at the council that means nothing involving activity that has sexual connotations will be permitted,” said our source.

At Friday’s debate at the theatre, the banned film’s director, Chew Tze Chuan, defended his film via Skype.

Panellist Hi Ching, who is also Creative Director of the TIC Film Festival, stated: ‘We felt it was important that we had these platforms, where we could actually have people meeting to create debate.

‘Tonight was about censorship, because these two films that we were showing tonight have been censored in their countries.’ He added that Thurrock Council’s decision to ban the films ‘is particularly ironic’, asserting that ‘we expect this country to (encourage) freedom of speech, human rights, much more tolerance.

‘In a sense, it actually shows how relevant such an action is for the film festival.’

The festival director Alex Chang said of Thurrock Council’s response to the films: “The best we can really hope for is a dialogue with them. They might be out of their depth, and if that is the case they need to be in-depth. They need to have educated conversations, and more importantly cultural and artistic conversations to get on board and get up to speed.”