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Monday, 3 January, 2000, 10:57 GMT
Should Anna and the King be banned?
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 story, made popular by previous versions in 1946 (starring Rex Harrison) and 1956 (The King and I, with Yul Brynner), is based on the journals of a 19th century English governess, Anna Leonowens, in the court of King Rama IV.Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
The film, released in the UK, the US and Asia in December, was filmed in Malaysia because the Thai authorities refused to allow it to be shot in Thailand.
The director of the film, Andy Tennant, says it was shown to the Thai royal family and changes were made after the Thai film board rejected the final cut.
But critics say that Leonowens' exaggerated her influence on the king, a moderniser of old Siam, and Western accounts of their relationship portray the king as a fool.
Is the film a victim of political correctness or should Western filmmakers strive harder to get their historical facts right?
What is wrong with this world?
It's being so politically correct
that people cannot see the
difference between history and
entertainment. Maybe a movie
about Thailand's sex markets, or
the task of handling it problems
with sexually transmitted infections
could and would be more factual
but would it be entertaining?
I congratulate the Thai government on banning the film. I hope India and other south Asian countries join hands and ban this film in solidarity. Malaysia or any Asian country should not have given permission to shoot this film on their soil. The West is playing a racialised politics card, the Asians should be shrewd enough to fight it. Think Practical.
Hollywood once again has presented a distorted picture of our history to the world. They expect you to believe that Anna, a women of dubious background, was able to influence a monarch far more educated and far sighted than herself. The government's ban on both the production of the film and its subsequent showing in this country is a protest against the insensitivity of movie producers in their quest for the almighty dollar. Happily, it may have backfired on them this time.
The monarchy in Thailand is the unifying force that binds the nation and has provided invaluable service in times of tension. The release of the film in Thailand would astonish the mass of the Thai people, since it would only serve to undermine the monarchy. Unfortunately, you cannot possibly expect this cultural and historical imperative to be understood internationally. Most Thais I have spoken to, while fully supporting the banning of the film in Thailand itself, are perfectly relaxed about it being shown everywhere else in the world. This is how it should be.
The movie is racist and colonialist. That so many westerners don't seem to know that or if they do, don't take offence, is the real worry.
Should the United States government ban Fox's X-Files because it depicts rogue, possibly alien cloned, FBI agents from time to time?
I find it very odd that people who obviously benefit from Hollywood and the western culture are so quick to reject it. It is only a movie "based" on the journals, nowhere does this movie claim to be fact. See it for what it is. Personally I don't care, Jodie Foster is an incredible actress, and a great representative of the United States when she is abroad.
Thailand should have donated/sponsored parts of the movie to project Siam in a better light. Such movies are cultural ambassadors. The "Last Emperor" did not detract from present-day China's glory; neither would a better-made "Anna and the King" have detracted one whit from Thailand's present status among the countries of the world.
True, it is not the place of the American or British cultural machine to dictate what movies are suitable for citizens of Thailand. Then again, shouldn't that be the right of the Thai citizens rather than Thai politicians? Don't like it, don't watch it.
Of course the film should not have been banned. It's not pornographic is it? Or extremely violent? Banning a film because it makes the royal family look silly is pure censorship. Royal families need to look silly from time to time, it's healthy!
I saw the film. It was very entertaining and quite beautiful. I have lived in Thailand and like the Kingdom and it's people very much. The film is not a history or a biography it is a historically set romantic love story and very entertaining. The Thai government has made a point by banning it but the Thai people will see it possibly on bootlegged CD's. A nice country and a lovely movie.
Hollywood always distorts the facts...
That is why you get "based on a true story" at the beginning of films...
Hollywood is entertainment, history is history...Hollywood will only ever represent the audience it tries to feed.
That this movie is out in 1999 is a disgrace to the world as a whole. It's portrayal of a culture as "exotic", it's custom barbaric, thus in desperate need to be "civilised", is reminiscent of the backwards ideas of Colonialism. Wouldn't we like to think that we are so far beyond such rudimentary stupidity? That said, I do not believe that it is right for the Thai government to ban the movie. Letting any government get away with determining what its people may or may not see will lead to a dangerous slippery slope. No government should be allowed such an undeserved privilege.
It is none of the American or British public's business as to whether the Thai government wishes to show a movie in its country. They have their reasons, respect them, as you would hope your reasons are respected.
I do not agree with Thai authorities. A movie is just a movie. I hope that people realise that. It is sad that the Thai government has no faith in their own people. They should have more trust it them. Please don't tell me everyone in Thailand believed everything they saw in Titanic was true and correct.
Hollywood commercialism and Thailand's respect for its royal family cannot be reconciled. Meanwhile, the whole debate is just free publicity for the film, good or bad.
I lived in Thailand for 8 years and know how respected this king is. The story is inaccurate & makes the King look a bit foolish. Also, they used a Chinese actor to play the King. Anyone who lived in Thailand for any length of time knows that the Thais would take exception to a Chinese actor playing the King.
It is right to send a message of what is appropriate and not. All of us give the highest respect to the Royal Family. The kind of respect and loyalty the Americans do not understand and never will.
As a Thai citizen, one of 60 million people who can die for their King, I think this is a RIGHT decision. We know banning this film will neither prevent this film from being shown in other countries, nor from being believed what is on the scene (which I think not many people do). This action is, however, a kind of a formal protest from Thai government as well as Thai people.
To all people who are saying "this is just an entertainment, it is just a movie", I have only one thing to say, it is not a mistake that shows the king wears green shoe, instead of blue. But it says the king and the country was in the darkness, and one wondrous western woman took them out of that darkness. If it is historically untrue, even though I am not a Thai, it hurts me. Get over with your pride western world, the eastern civilisation is much deeper rooted and ancient, all you have to do is to concentrate in your junior school history books.
As a gesture of respect for Thailand, the other members of ASEAN should ban the film as well. Since Hollywood only understands profits, ten countries banning the film might get them to sit up and then in the future you might get greater sensitivity being shown for the culture of others.
Romanticism and fiction with a dash of truth has sold better than truth itself no matter which version people may defend. But if you choose to represent the film as an accurate reflection of the truth then you should at least get it right. Freedom to information without this responsibility is meaningless.
Most fact-based U.S movies are based on lies. It 's no wonder that people say Americans don't know history or geography. A perfect example would be the movie Anastasia that came out recently. In the movie the Romanavs are killed when the red army storms the palace and Anastaisa escaped through a secret hiding place. Now all you have to do is look in any history book and you will see that it says the Romanavs were all taken to a room and shot.
I wasn't going to comment since I haven't seen the movie but, after reading what others have said, I just would like to say, for the record, we have movies here in America for entertainment... I never expect to learn history from a movie (just as you can't use Reader's Digest to write a report!). A very good example is Braveheart - I enjoyed the film but I never thought for a moment that it was historically accurate. If after seeing a film we find we are interested in the topic then we can research that topic for the facts. I don't think anyone ever intended the movie industry to be used as an educational tool - unless his or her intent was to deceive - which sadly enough has happened. One must never believe everything they see, or read for that matter... that would be very dangerous indeed.
Hollywood portrays all countries and all people in the fashion it wants to. Even its "own people and country" aren't immune to its misrepresentation for the cause of a movie. Censorship should be allowed to take place at a personal level, not by decree.
Anyone who knows Thailand and the deep awe and respect the Thai people have for their monarch will not be at all surprised the film was banned there.
Intelligent people will work out fact from fiction themselves. Banning by governments is very dangerous and at times shows the traditional character of oppression. Films and books reflect creative work, good or bad let the citizens and critics judge the quality of the content. Why make this film anyway? At the age of 10+ I enjoyed the Yul Brynner version and was intelligent enough to understand that it was fantasy and through the eyes of white western people. In my eyes the natives were warm, intelligent and well mannered.
Of course it should not be banned if any rational thinking was used.
Of course. It is nice to see a country stand up for its monarchy and
not allow the "westernisation" of its culture and history. In England we have seen many of our own historical characters
given American accents, and seen many histories forever altered by the movie industry. The REAL tragedy is, people believe the movie versions.
No government should ever ban a film because of it's political content. It's sad that as we approach a new century, some people need to be dragged kicking and screaming out of the last one.
Good for the Thai's. I have always thought that this story and the movies based on it are insulting, patronising and racist.
The censorship of almost any film is wrong, and the Thai government's actions are inexcusable. While the film may indeed be historically inaccurate, it must be allowed in the name of free speech. Let the Thai people make up their own minds and not have them made up for them.
Although I have not seen the film, I am not aware of any statement made in the advertising that claims this film to be a work of history. It is a work of entertainment. These are actors, not re-enactors -- they owe nothing to historical truth any more than Disney's Mulan.
The Thai government can do whatever it feels is appropriate -- and censor what it wants. If the Thai government feels the film demeans its history and perhaps is a 'racist' representation, then censorship may even be appropriate according to Thai custom and law. However, that this forum engages in a discussion of historicity in Hollywood is foolishness.
I live in Thailand and therefore see how much respect the Royal Family commands. The particular King that is depicted in the film was instrumental in bringing Thailand out of the dark ages and as close to "enlightenment" as was appropriate at the time. I totally agree with the Thai censorship board making a stand against the inaccurate rubbish that is pumped in nauseating amounts out of Hollywood. Hollywood cannot even respect it's own history (look at the rubbish called "Pocahontas"), so it is not at all surprising that they have no respect for another country's history.
What a lot of fuss for a film. The government should concentrate more on the problems of paedophilia and child prostitution instead of wasting time on such a stupid film. The question I am asking myself is why waste so much energy on something that does not affect 80 % of the population. Stop being hypocrites.
Since all this talk has come about, the film company will have made 20 million in hype factor. They are just getting people interested because they can make money out of it, after all it is the film business we are talking about. It seems to me that the people that are really bothered about issues relating to the film are the only ones making money for it.
History and the movie industry?
We all know that movie makers never let a little thing like the truth get in the way of a good story. Don't go to the movies for historical facts, its like looking for gourmet food in McDonalds!
The Thai action was warranted. Too often, filmmakers purport to depict actual history and distort it radically to "sell" the film. All such films should be required to prominently advertise, at the beginning of the movie, that the actually facts in it have been altered for dramatic purposes.
Bravo for Thailand! It's about time nations started banning films which rewrite history through the eyes of foreigners. From the Myth of D-Day's importance to the absurd portrayal of the Vietcong, it's about time Hollywood got a royal slap on the arse.
I have not, nor will I see this film, but please remember it's not a documentary, it is entertainment!
Since when has historical accuracy been a requirement for Hollywood.
Hollywood certainly has a distorted view of the eastern culture and traditions. I remember seeing a recent movie where Indian Hindus were shown praying in front of Taj Mahal which is a tomb of a Muslim Queen or another movie where the Muslim dead were being cremated, although Muslims bury their dead. When the Hollywood is ignorant of such simple facts how can one expect them to be truthful of history when it involves a Western character (Always smarter) and an Eastern one (Always a fool, no matter what he represents).
I liked "Braveheart". Afterwards I was horrified to learn how inaccurate it was. In America you can only squash a lie if you are personally injured by it. Thailand did the right thing in this case, requiring Fox to tell the truth.
Hollywood always amazes me. Its ability to mislead people is tremendous. I'm always surprised that some people take it seriously. I do not believe it should have been banned. Better would be a warning: "This film is a Hollywood product. It's extremely sentimental. Historical accuracy approaches zero. Hollywood would also like to remind viewers that the producers had not realised the Far East was nowhere near any of the eastern states until after the film was produced".
One has only to look at films about America's involvement with Vietnam to realise that Hollywood distorts facts until they become unrecognisable. The important thing to remember is that Hollywoodian movies are not documentaries and only aim to entertain.
Hollywood is an industry that caters mainly to the Western world and as such it feels that it has the license to distort facts to make its own people look good. How many movies have we seen that show the horrible history that the west has? But even when dealing with the history of another country they feel that changes can be made which will portray the person closer to their audience in a favourable light while playing with the history of another country for their profit.
I have never ever seen any American or European made films have correct attitude toward the East or even respect the wisdom of the East.
This proves how some people take "political correctness" a bit too far. I love to watch movies based on history. some of my favourites are JFK, Evita, Nixon, and Michael Collins. If you watch all four of the movies, you will see that all four of them are not accurate towards the historical stories. Does this mean that The US Government banned JFK or Nixon because of their inaccurate plots? No. Did the Irish Government ban Michael Collins or did the Argentine Government ban Evita? No. They were a bit unhappy, but they let the movies go foreward because they are all entertainment. So is Anna and the King. It should not have been banned. If you start banning films, what next?
Jodie Foster is one of the most careful film producers around. While there is always room for disagreement over historical facts, I suspect she has been responsible about this story.
I know a little, about this as my cousin, (Charles Brackett) produced the movie version with Yul Brynner. I was present in Los Angeles when the film crews returned from Thailand with shots of the palace. In return for using the palace for scenes, Twentieth Century Fox made some restorations to the palace. Charley Brackett, incidentally, was a sticker for fact and researched his stories very carefully.
From what I know of Jodie Foster, I would have to say she has been responsible and the Thai are being a bit silly.
Why do the people of Thailand have to be treated like children and be told what they can read or see.
Can you make an entertaining and
historically correct film?
What was the approach used here?
A film made that would be historically
correct and entertaining would become
a classic instead of joining all those
other naive Hollywood portrayals.
It is good thing that Thailand has had
the common sense to ban a film that
as usual Hollywood has distorted
historical facts to create more drama
and to act as a platform for Hollywood's
own special form of propaganda.
Maybe Hollywood would like to make
a multi-million dollar production about
the USA's human rights record regarding
Red Indians and Blacks.
The Thai censors are too sensitive. Tell them to lighten up.
I am glad they banned it, Hollywood have for to long exaggerated the truth in history in American's favour. Next year a film is coming out about how the Americans captured an Enigma machine from a U-Boat during the Second World War. The British Navy captured it, several months prior to the Americans even being in the war.
Banning a film in protest can backfire while providing the studio with free publicity.
Why stop at Anna and
the King? Let's take a crack at
Henry VIII, Henry V, Richard III, Napoleon
Elizabeth I, Braveheart, and all the other
movies that have been made from some
facts and some fiction. Let's just
take away the fantasy and enjoyment
and analyse every word and every nuance until
we have torn it down to the few actual
words and deeds that are written in
stone so that we can indeed start
watching historical movies that are
15 minutes long.
The film portrays the west as an eternally impeccable and
flawless body. I have read Siam's history
and think that the Siamese tradition of respect and honour
has been portrayed as a foolish one in the film. One should always
remember when trying to translate
a biography or an excerpt from history
into a film that there may be a lot
of bias attached to the text.
The only way this film could have been made without offending Thailand's Royal family or the Thai people would have been to have the Royal family directly involved in the making of the movie. However, the result would have been a distortion of the facts possibly greater than that of Hollywood's version, and certainly a lot less entertaining. I believe in these situations the only practical answer is to have the movie issue a disclaimer right up front as to its intentions. If all efforts have been made to portray an accurate account of a historical drama then it should say so at the start of the movie, and issue a list of the research material used for reference. If on the other hand if the intention has, (as in most cases) been to produce an interesting story only loosely based on an existing historical figure, it should state this clearly up front in the opening credits. Certainly an end to "history changing" films such as Titanic and Braveheart is desirable.
I just wonder if a country that has become known as a world-class centre of prostitution, including being a magnet for paedophile tourist flights because of the many young children forced into prostitution there, has the right to complain about a mere distortion of their history, egregious though it might be.
The movie producer should make a clear statement that "Anna and the King" is based upon a fictional story. It was proved that both Anna Crawford's books contain too many inaccuracies and as such can not be accepted as historical document. Otherwise, the Thail authorities are right not to allow the movie to play in their cinemas. Americans should once and for all realise that there are some other things that matter, besides money and profit, like honour, national pride and respect for national history and tradition.
In talking to numerous Thai friends over the past 3
Days, I have discovered that many of them desire
to see the film, and admire Jody Foster. Though the
film has been banned from theaters, it is easy to import
video and DVD versions from Malaysia, which most Thais
will surely do.
Truth and facts usually come out especially in high drama like this. The Thai government should give it's citizens the right to see it, and let then let the public decry Hollywood for its ignorance of the Thai culture and people.
Rest assured that Hollywood *will* notice the banning of the movie in Thailand. A movie loses money when it is banned and Hollywood *never* fails to notice the bottom line. However, I don't expect this censure to affect the content of U.S.-made movies at all.
Censorship is a bit extreme but
as I previously lived in Thailand for
a total of 17 years I appreciate
Thai sensibilities. The anger of Thais towards the ridiculous portrayals
of Thai culture, history, and two of
the three most enlightened monarchs
in their history is entirely understandable. It
is past time that Hollywood realised
that they cannot rewrite other
people's history for entertainment
and profit, and expect to get away
I can thus understand the Thai objections if the movie portrayed the monarch as an uncivilised "Asian" being given a lesson in "civilisation" without taking into accounting the rich educational and cultural traditions of Thailand. However, if the film portrays genuine cross-cultural understanding like Kundun did then the ban is not warranted.
This movie, just like "The King And I" is based on a book regarded by most historians to be highly fictional and written by someone living in fantasy land. The movie tries to look authentic by having many characters speaking in the Thai language, with subtitles, but they do a very bad job of speaking Thai. I watched the movie out of interest, having lived in Thailand for 2 years, but found the movie extremely slow-moving. The scenery was beautiful, and the reconstruction of The Grand Palace was extremely well-done, but I would like to see someone make a movie that was more factual to try and re-address the balance.
We are talking about Hollyweird here and as we all know, any movies they generally make, whether based on a real character or not, generally will be doctored in order to produce a movie with mass public appeal. Hollyweird is not a particularly truthful place, so why should their movies be any more so? Take it with a pinch of salt - there was a debate here a few months ago about movies and reality and I believe the general consensus was the two words don't belong in the same sentence.
The earlier versions were banned and no one seemed to care. What's different? I wish someone would make a realistic film about Leonowens, showing what a fraud she really was.
The West has often exaggerated its importance in other continents. In fact over inflated Western egos have bought about the division of the nations into 1st, 2nd and 3rd World classifications.
Its refreshing to see that not all persons or countries bow to the all mighty American dollar and the band of pretentious idiots in Holly"weird".
Every account of ancient Asia I have seen in Western movies
(be it tales of ancient India, China, or the Middle East) is horribly inaccurate.
The main goal of Western moviemakers is to perpetuate long-held, baseless, patently
false stereotypes and to ultimately portray the "Western man's influence" as the only
redeeming portion of the story. So it is with Anna and the King. Kudos to the
Thai government for banning this film. If it is an insult to their history, portraying
some incorrect Euro-centric version of history, then the world is better
off without it.
Western filmmakers are bound by western history books. Western historians
have always had a penchant for weighing events in their own cultural context, which is
something equally reciprocated by eastern historians. I think cinema should not be considered a medium for learning history. If that was to be the case then all of USA would either be a mafia-dominated society or a desert in Arizona or Nevada.
It is extremely unfortunate that this lavish but overlong movie has been banned in Thailand. But anybody with a smidgen of knowledge about Thai culture will tell you that even now the King is treated almost as a deity. The majority of Thais wear two medallions around their neck; one of Buddha and the other of their present King. As an ex-pat who has lived in Asia for many years, I am still shocked but never surprised at the lack of understanding of Asian culture from the west, nor at our penchant for stereotype, whether positive or negative.
Tennant has made it clear that 'Anna & The King' is mainly fictitious. Still, for anyone who has seen the movie - the final scene where Anna saves the day is a veritable slap in the face for Thais. Indeed, how would the British feel if Anna were a Middle Eastern woman almost single-handedly saving the British royal family?
A first response it to believe that the official Thai government response is an over-reaction. However, Thais have a true reverence toward their monarch, as well as a proud legacy of avoiding colonisation by other nations. In this context it is then understandable that anything that tarnishes the image of the monarch or of their history will not be welcome in Thailand. It is personally difficult to understand the notion of any type of censorship (can you imagine classics, such as Dr. Strangelove, being censored because it makes the military look foolish?).
I have not seen Anna & The King and am no expert on Thai history. Accordingly I cannot comment on this particular film. However, as a keen student of history, and appreciating that most people garner their impressions of the past from films and the like, I am generally appalled by the distortion of fact that we routinely see in the cinema. Take Braveheart for example, a film which won Best Picture Oscar. It had the lead character in a relationship with a woman who was just six years of age when William Wallace died - to name but one crass inaccuracy!
Film must be banned. Hollywood and filmmakers all over the world have no idea what impact their films have on viewers. They must take a very responsible role and work within boundaries. King is King and must be treated as royalty. No matter what country. King has kingdom and his assembly and subjects. Nobody has any right to dishonour him.
I am pretty sure that not enough
efforts are taken to research on history.
The fact that movies with very similar scripts
have been made earlier show a kind
of continuation of racist psychology and
superiority complex with which most of
the western hemisphere suffers from.
Movies wouldn't be
art if they were
and if they were
then it would not
be the entertainment
that most people
would pay to see.
Most people go to see
movies to get away
from reality, not
run to it. As far as if
the movie should
have been banned: it is their country and they can do whatever
History is as it is told. Hollywood with its tremendous reach can indeed redefine history. This film will be the sole source of information about King Rama IV for most people - and Hollywood has an added responsibility to see that history is not rewritten. The same goes for films based on a "true story".
Western attitude towards Asian countries, people and history has always
left much to be desired. I happen to see it all the time around me here in the States. The west really needs to look at history and see their
dark past and barbaric treatment of
people around the world.
Of course Hollywood distorted Thai history, Hollywood distorts everybody's history. Banning the film will do nothing, and Hollywood will not notice what has happened.
Whilst it is true that Rama IV modernised Thailand I doubt that any Farlang would have been allowed to speak to the King as Anna did in the film, but an excellent movie.
While it runs counter to our beliefs around freedom of expression in the West, I truly believe that banning the film only deprives the Thai people of the right to make their own judgement. Hollywood has been guilty of portraying historical situations in a way that can lead children particularly to misinterpret history. Examples would include Pocahontas, Hunchback of Notre Dame, etc.
I haven't seen "Anna and the King" yet. However, I saw Yul Brynner in "The King and I" both on the stage and in the film. I thoroughly enjoyed it. But that was long ago and I was young. Having grown up, I'm now embarrassed by it. It's patronising at best. It does portray the King as some kind of clown, and his family and subjects as stupid. In a different setting we once used to accept Kipling's references to "lesser breeds", but no more. More and more often I'm discovering that what we sneer at as "political correctness" really is justified; it is a result of our all having grown up enough to be sensitive to the feelings of others. This "Anna and the King" situation seems to be a case in point.
Thailand certainly in in the right to do so. The non-stop rubbish that is churned out by Hollywood is, in a way, an insult to us all. I respect this nation for having the courage to say 'no'. I wish more nations would simply say 'no thanks.'
The film is not a victim of political correctness and Western filmmakers should strive harder to get their historical facts right. The film should indeed have been banned. Hollywood should take notice, but will not, because it concerns itself with making as much money as possible, and not with respecting the history and culture of a poor third world country.
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