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Going off script

The use of Khmer letters in the film has been deemed offensive.
The use of Khmer letters in the film has been deemed offensive.YOUTUBE

Going off script

Film starring Hollywood actor Owen Wilson won’t be screened in the Kingdom’s cinemas

The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has banned new Hollywood action-thriller No Escape from screening in the Kingdom over its apparent misuse of the Khmer script.

In the trailer for the film – which was originally titled The Coup – actor Owen Wilson plays a US businessman whose family gets caught in the crossfire during a violent uprising in an unnamed Southeast Asian country.

But while the film was shot in 2013 – primarily in Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand – riot police seen clashing with a mob use shields emblazoned with upside-down Khmer letters.

Sin Chanchaya, director of the Department of Film, said the decision to ban the film was solely based upon watching the film’s trailer after it caused a ruckus on Facebook.

“We can say that some scenes really affect our culture,” Chanchaya said.

He said he assumed that the use of the Khmer letters was a ploy in order to get permission to shoot in Thailand, because the scenes resembled real-life events there.

“We know that the freedom of Hollywood is too broad and there’s no one that can stop them,” he said.

“It’s not just us, other countries have also been affected by [Hollywood] movies as well.

All we can do is ban the movie from screening in our own country. It’s difficult for us to complain, because they have the freedom to shoot.

“I know they just used this ploy to get permission, but they shouldn’t have used Khmer culture to do it.”

Owen Wilson stars in "No Escape".
Owen Wilson stars in "No Escape". YOUTUBE

He added that the department had spoken to local distributors about the film ban.

The producers of No Escape, which also stars Pierce Brosnan and Lake Well, did not respond to requests for comment before deadline.

Thailand-based photographer Roland Neveu, who shot the stills for No Escape, said he could understand why some people might see some similarities between the film’s setting and Cambodia. 

For example, the script on the police shields, the people wearing kramas and the violent uprising which echoed the Khmer Rouge takeover of Phnom Penh. 

However, Neveu, who shot a famous series of photos of Phnom Penh during the fall of the city to the Khmer Rouge in April 1975, said the film wasn’t meant to portray any specific country and that the plot was more important than the setting.

“I believe the authorities may not really see that it’s just a fiction, but maybe they’ll reconsider when they see the movie itself,” he said.

Chhay Bora, president of the Motion Picture Association of Cambodia, said freedom of speech was important but filmmakers needed to also respect other countries’ cultures.  

He said other films – like 50 Shades of Grey – were banned in Cambodia because it was impossible to cut all the offending scenes without destroying film.

If there was only one scene in No Escape that featured Khmer script, he suggested it could easily be cut or digitally edited out if the producers wanted.

No Escape was written and directed by John Erick Dowdle, whose previous credits include the horror film As Above, So Below (2014) and the science fiction horror Quarantine (2008).

Despite rumours that No Escape had also been banned by the military government in Thailand, the country’s Culture Ministry on Monday confirmed the film had been approved by censors and would be released there on September 10.

No Escape is scheduled to be released in the US on August 26.

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