Anna and the King: Controversy and Post-Colonialism in Thailand

Pawit Mahasarinand (Chulalongkorn University, Thailand)

After the plan to shoot the film in Thailand was turned down in 1998, the distributor of Anna and the King failed again in their attempt to release the film there in 1999. Its producers boasted new characterization of the King and Anna as well as proper (pan-Asian) casting and (mostly costume and set design) research as proofs of their attempt to make the film politically correct while the distributor highlighted the catch phrase "based on a true story" in most advertisement. Elsewhere, in the end, it fell short of both commercial and critical success. Heavily based on Anna's personal accounts and none of historical records, the film's plot is not very different from its predecessors. Without any musical tunes already affiliated with the story, the film fails to entertain audiences, with its too simple gimmick, a predictable love story with no happy ending set in an exotic land.

This paper traces the controversy back to its originčthe discourse on Thai government's permission to release the film Anna and the King of Siam in 1947, in contrast to the ban on the musical film The King and I in 1956. It will then summarize and analyze debates on the ban and selected reviews, by local and foreign critics, of the most recent film, in comparison to the former, as an example of Post-Colonialism movement in Thailand.

As Hollywood's interest in Asia, as a market and a source of material, grows, the amount of Thai references in its films increase, be it Thai cuisine, sex industry, or history. With this ongoing trend, in the next decade or so, there would probably be another Hollywood version of this Anna fiction.

Postcolonial OV discourseov Casablanca Conference

Last modified: 7 May 2001