Sunday Matinee: Banned Films

MoebiusDespite the growth of world film market and the use of the internet to make the world feel like a smaller place, it’s always shocking to see censorship still run rampant. Vietnamese filmmaker Charlie Nguyen’s latest kung ku action film Cho Lon has been banned by the Vietnamese Censorship Board. This means that the film can not play in Vietnam or anyplace else in the world.

In a statement from the Vietnamese Central Board of Film Evaluation of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism they said:

Cho Lon violated the Law of Cinema when showing scenes of gangsters blatantly set in battle, chaotic fighting with knives, swords, machetes, with blood spilling everywhere … without the interference of government, polices, people or any other social forces.

Recently the producers sent the edited version of Cho Lon, which cut some violent scenes and inserted some appropriate scenes. But it’s still not repaired overall, so the Central Board of Film Evaluation of the Ministry of Culture Sports and Tourism shall not issue licenses for Cho Lon.”


Director Charlie Nguyen stated after the ban

“We edited the script for Cho Lon three times. The Vietnam Film Department wanted to change all the content, and the screenplay of Cho Lon, but it’s something we absolutely can not do because we must re-shoot many scenes but investment funds are limited. We have cut almost all the violent fighting scenes, and added some scenes with the police and I did everything I can do without changing the storyline.

If the production company continues to seek solutions and find the appropriate funding source, maybe the film can be re-shot and the storyline edited. But to be honest, I don’t know if I have any further interest and resources to do so.”

Several similar films have managed to pass through the board with cuts but the problem here seems to be the fact that the filmmakers expressed their feelings about the ratings board on Facebook and that if they had just kept quiet the film would have passed. As it stands now they can’t ever show the film. It has to pass the film board before it can be shown internationally. Yes the filmmakers could smuggle the film out of the country and show it but then they would be banned from making films in Vietnam. Nguyen and his brother, star Johnny Nguyen have made some cool films like The Rebel and will continue to make movies despite this set back, still this sucks.

If a violent Vietnamese action film getting banned wasn’t enough Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk’s latest film Moebius has essentially been banned in South Korea. The film was given a restricted rating which means it could only play in specialty theatres. There currently isn’t any specialty theatres in South Korea so it’s like it’s been banned. The upside is that it can still be shown internationally. The ratings board stated

“The story and contents of the movie are highly violent, terrifying and harmful to underage audiences. The unethical and unsocial expressions of sexual activity between immediate family members make it only suitable for screening in limited theatres.”

Apparently the brilliant I Saw the Devil also received the same rating but it still managed to get seen and it’s played well overseas. Some days it’s still tough to be a filmmaker.

Author: Shane Hnetka

Shane Hnetka has spent most of his life watching movies and reading comic books. He has decided to use this vast knowledge for evil instead of good.

One thought on “Sunday Matinee: Banned Films”

  1. Interesting. The only time I encountered issues in Vietnam was when my camera man and I were leaving the country. A security guard took us aside to a back room, where our shipping containers were sitting. A gentleman in the room pointed at one of them and said “you have video tapes in there.”

    The night before, our government guide/fixer had, very solemnly, handed me an elaborate document, complete with ink block stamp and said “Keep this available.” When I asked him what it was, he just said “You’ll know if you need it.”

    Sure enough, back at the airport, I pulled out the document and handed it to the man in charge. He read it carefully, folded it up, put it in his pocket, pulled the massive red stickers from our containers and wished us a good flight.

    It seems Vietnam takes its portrayal in film and television very seriously.

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