Chiang Mai Activists Forced To Cancel '1984' Screening

A local movie club announced it was canceling its screening of "1984," after a senior police officer told them to cancel the event.

CHIANG MAI — A senior police officer has forced an art gallery in Chiang Mai province to call off a screening of "1984," the film based on George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel about a society living under an oppressive authoritarian regime.

The screening was organised by a local cinophile group, the "Punya Movie Club," and was scheduled to take place in “room 101" of the gallery on Sirimangkalajarn Road this Saturday, the poster of the event advertised. 

However, a police lieutenant colonel called the gallery owners and persuaded them to cancel the event, said founder of Punya Movie Club, Bodin Theparat. 

"The officer told the gallery owners that 1984 is a political film, and it is linked to anti-coup protests," said Mr. Bodin, without naming the police officer. "He also warned that the screening will violate copyright laws."

Mr. Bodin told Khaosod English that he and other organisers discussed the matter and concluded that the police may show up at the event and use "any excuse" to stop the screening. They decided to cancel the event out of consideration for the gallery owners, who are not involved in politics, and for movie-goers who might end up being prosecuted by authorities. 

"In other times,  I would have insisted that I have the rights to show this film, but right now, we are living in surreal times," Mr. Bodin said. "There are no laws."

Along with the "three-finger salute" from the Hunger Games trilogy, George Orwell’s 1984 has been adopted as a symbol of the anti-coup protest movement. In recent weeks, activists in Bangkok have gathered in small groups to silently read the novel in an effort to express defiance while circumventing the military junta's ban on public protests.

Since seizing power in a coup d'etat on 22 May, the military's National Council of Peace and Order (NCPO) has outlawed public demonstrations and threatened to send transgressors to face trial in military courts. The NCPO has already detained scores of anti-coup protesters and activists thought to be critical of the military takeover. 

Mr. Bodin explained that his group initially planned to screen the film adaptation of the novel because many people have heard of the book's connection to the ongoing anti-coup campaign, yet have not read the book or seen the film.

"I didn't know there would be problem," Mr. Bodin said. "At first we planned to include a discussion panel at the end of film and invite academics, too, but we realised that wouldn't be allowed, so we already scaled down the event."

Asked whether the group will try to arrange a new screening, Mr. Bodin said his group is debating a number of possibilities, such as organising a "no-film screening" to protest the cancellation of the original event, but he personally believes such defiant gesture would only draw more attention  from the authorities.

"I think we already made the point of the film 1984 even though we couldn't screen it: that we are living in a world like 1984," Mr. Bodin said.

 

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