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Tuesday, 28 December, 1999, 11:02 GMT
Thais banish Anna and the King
Jodie Foster stars in the movie
Thailand's censorship committee has banned Jodie Foster's latest film Anna and the King on the grounds that it is an insult to the monarchy and a distortion of Thai history.

The movie, in which Foster plays alongside Chinese actor Chow Yun-Fat, is a remake of the 1946 feature starring Rex Harrison and Irene Dunne which tells the story of an English governess in the 19th century court of King Rama IV.

A member of the committee said: "The ban was imposed under the film act because the film intentionally tries to undermine the monarchy and seriously distorts Thai history.

"If we cut all the scenes which we consider mock the monarchy and then showed the film it would only be 20 minutes long."

The 19-strong committee is made up of academics, members of the press, the national film board and the special branch police.

They agreed to ban the movie from appearing in Thailand on both film and video.

Longstanding objections

The official outlawing of Anna and the King in Thailand is not, however, a major surprise.

Last week, the censorship committee said that it was intending to ban the film following a preliminary review of the final cut - despite changes having been made since the committee objected to an earlier version.

Before that, the committee also published a book defending its initial decision to ban the filming of the movie in Thailand. Instead the film's Hollywood studio - 20th Century Fox - ended up shooting in neighbouring Malaysia.

The Thai authorities do not want to have anything to do with Anna and the King because they believe it portrays their 19th Century king as foolish.

The original 1946 film was adapted from the stage play of Margaret Landon's 1944 book Anna and the King of Siam. The book claims to recount the experiences of the British governess Leonowens.

The book was also adapted into a stage musical called The King and I which was then made into the 1956 movie starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr. This was also banned in Thailand for the same reason.

Critics say that the original movie script exaggerated Leonowens' influence on the king, who is respected for his efforts to modernise old Siam and open it to the outside world.

However, the director of the new film, Andy Tennant, says changes have made since it was first rejected by the Thai film board - and its characterisation of the king was certainly a great improvement on the one played by Yul Brynner in The King and I.

BBC's Geraldine Carrol in Bangkok
"Authorities say the film is foolish and offensive"

Hollywood snubbed
Should Thailand have banned Anna and the King?
See also:

10 Nov 98 | Entertainment
Row over King and I movie
05 Nov 98 | Entertainment
Last chance for Anna and the King
04 May 99 | Entertainment
King And I remake in new row
21 Dec 99 | Entertainment
Anna and the King's Thai ban
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