In Thailand’s film industry, there are few movies where the main character has a disability as the protagonist is usually in perfect health. In the real world, Thai actors who are disabled are extremely rare, so when actors have to play a disabled role, they cannot portray it realistically.
In order to help aspiring filmmakers have the right mindset about people with disabilities, the Institute of Asian Studies (IAS) and Chulalongkorn University (CU) recently organised the talk forum “Disabilities In Film” at the Faculty of Communication Arts. The forum was hosted by Luxsnai Songsiengchai, of the executive committee of Asian studies at IAS. The speakers included Sopon Tubklong, a visually impaired actor, Thipphawan Pollongchang, a physically disabled lecturer at Srinakharinwirot University, Piyawan Ongsuwan, manager of Movie2gether at Klongdinsor, and Thanapol Chaowanich, a lecturer at the Department of Motion Pictures and Still Photography at CU.
“In the movie world, people with visual impairments are always portrayed wearing sunglasses. This caused some people to question if I was really visually impaired since I did not wear sunglasses. To prove myself, I had to show them my disability ID. In the past, comedians pretended to be disabled to add humour to their shows, but currently, there is less of this because everyone, including disabled people, can access the media more than in the past. Moreover, some people do not recognise a white cane. I was asked if I was a drummer when people saw my folded white cane and mistook it for a drumstick,” said Sopon.
Thipphawan, a physically disabled lecturer at Srinakharinwirot University, agreed with Sopon that there are many unrealistic scenes about the disabled in the media.
“I was surprised to see a viral video where an actor in a wheelchair floated high in the air after rolling his wheelchair on a road full of speed bumps, and grabbed a gun to fire at others. The story is not meant to be fantasy, and the video does not look realistic at all. Thai scriptwriters should do more research. At least, they should sit on a wheelchair to learn what it is like to move about and control it or they should interview people in wheelchairs,” said Thipphawan.
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