Banned for por­tray­ing tem­ple as hide­out for film’s vil­lains

The Phnom Penh Post - - LIFESTYLE - Alessan­dro Marazzi Sas­soon

CIN­EMA­GO­ERS, be warned: the block­buster se­quel Kings­man: The Golden Cir­cle won’t be play­ing in a theatre near you after all, with gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials yank­ing the ac­tion flick from the King­dom’s screens over an al­legedly neg­a­tive por­trayal of Cam­bo­dia deemed un­ac­cept­able for lo­cal au­di­ences.

The light-hearted romp chron­i­cles a fic­ti­tious Bri­tish se­cret spy or­gan­i­sa­tion that teams up with its Amer­i­can coun­ter­part to find a drug lord’s se­cret base – which just so hap­pens to be in Cam­bo­dia. Once dis­cov­ered, a show­down be­tween the vil­lain­ess ( Ju­lianne Moore, with El­ton John, play­ing him­self, as her hostage) and the tit­u­lar agents (Colin Firth and Taron Eger­ton) en­sues against the com­puter-gen­er­ated back­drop of a tem­ple sur­rounded by jun­gle.

In an in­ter­view yes­ter­day, Bok Bo­rak, deputy direc­tor of the Min­istry of Cul­ture and Fine Arts’ Film Depart­ment, said the de­ci­sion to ban Kings­man was made last week.

“After we re­viewed the film we found some prob­lems,” he said. “They used the Cam­bo­dian land – the tem­ple – as the place where the ter­ror­ists stay and make trou­ble for the world.”

While not­ing that the lo­ca­tion or name of the tem­ple isn’t spec­i­fied, he said it re- sem­bled Ta Prohm – which was fa­mously used as a set for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

A ma­jor point of con­cern, he said, was the clear ref­er­ence to Cam­bo­dia as a lo­ca­tion in which the fic­tional vil­lains are liv­ing and pro­duc­ing drugs. Tomb Raider, in which the pro­tag­o­nist steals an arte­fact from the Angko­rian tem­ple, was deemed ac­cept­able be­cause Cam­bo­dia was por­trayed in a ro­man­tic light.

“It’s about the won­der, the se­crets . . . It’s not about a bad guy who wants to de­stroy the tem­ple,” he said.

Si­mon Choo, the dis­tri­bu­tion direc­tor at Westec Me­dia, which pur­chased the lo­cal dis­tri­bu­tion rights for the film, took is­sue with the min­istry’s rea­son­ing.

“I think it’s a very child­ish or im­ma­ture de­ci­sion,” he said.

Two weeks prior to the ban, he said, Westec had al­ready re­quested ed­its to be made to the film ac­cord­ing to the min­istry’s feed­back, Choo said.

To his knowl­edge, last week the min­istry didn’t re­view the newly edited film, which re­moved ex­plicit ref­er­ences to Cam­bo­dia – though the fight scene at the tem­ple com­plex could not be taken out. Sub­se­quent calls to the min­istry went unan­swered by press time.

“We even blocked the name Cam­bo­dia and the name does not ap­pear any­where,” Choo said, adding that the de­ci­sion was overly sen­si­tive, es­pe­cially since the plot is en­tirely fic­tional.

“Ev­ery movie can­not be de­pict­ing Cam­bo­dia as heaven . . . You need to face the re­al­ity that all coun­tries have crim­i­nals.”

Ac­cord­ing to Bo­rak, the film is not the first Hol­ly­wood pro­duc­tion to be banned this year, but un­like the oth­ers it wasn’t nixed over de­pic­tions of ex­ces­sive vi­o­lence or sex­u­al­ity.

While the ban ap­plies to cin­e­mas, and even­tu­ally DVD sales, Bo­rak con­ceded the movie “will flow into Cam­bo­dia [any­way] by YouTube or Face­book” and other stream­ing sites.

Westec will be re­funded by the stu­dio but, ac­cord­ing to Choo, gen­er­ally the move is “not good” for the in­dus­try, and cin­e­mas li­censed to carry the film – Leg­end, Ma­jor, Plat­inum and Prime cine­plexes – “were all dis­ap­pointed”.

Movie­goer Ch­heang­meng Thay, 24, also found him­self dis­ap­pointed yes­ter­day, agree­ing with Choo’s as­sess­ment that the au­thor­i­ties were too sen­si­tive.

“Look at other coun­tries that even joke [about] their pres­i­dent,” he said, going on to add that the ex­po­sure the film gave – even if neg­a­tive – could bring film­mak­ers, tourists and other sources of in­come to the King­dom.

“If we are open more there will be more big film [ companies that] come to fea­ture Cam­bo­dia, [and the] gov­ern­ment could gen­er­ate more rev­enue.” Kings­man:theGold­enCir­cle,

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