The Sith in Sài Gòn
There's chatter aplenty about the new Star Wars movie, Revenge of the Sith. Most people agree that it's better than the last two flicks in that series, but not as good as The Empire Strikes Back. That's nice enough for me. So when do I get to see it?
- If I was able to clear 1.44 GB of files off my PC, maybe I could see it tonight. The film has already been leaked to BitTorrent - a method of exchanging large amounts of data quickly. (It actually happened before its official release.) If you desire, you could look up various files for the thing in MyBitTorrent. I am not that much of a fanatic to do so.
- So I could wait a few weeks, where I know it will be available on pirate DVD. Warezpeople - the competent ones - also know about BitTorrent. Wait a few weeks longer, and I'll be able to pick up a better print. The first wave of a DVD release is often the worse: you'll see the film through a HandyCam inside a theater screen, and both the light and sound will be uneven.
- As for seeing it at the cinemas.... well, never? This is my preferred method: a big screen, with the associated LucasFilm technology for the hisses of light sabers and spacecraft. But to get it on the cinemas, you need a local film distributor interested in the flick. Then they need to get approval from the local equivalent of Australia's OFLC.
Now here's the problem. Films get delayed on their way to Việt Nam. For example, Alfie was just released here last weekend - a couple of months after its Western release. I can't anticipate anything objectionable about Revenge of the Sith, ideologically speaking - lots of violence, but minimal sex or nudity. For Việt Nam, as for other Asian countries, that's perfect. But I expect the timeservers at Censor Central will be mulling over the film - looking for the smallest suspicious thing to take objection to. Then they retreat to their desks or their meeting rooms to write, read and distribute various documents, files, decrees and circulars to and from other sundry departments. A couple of months later, you may receive reluctant approval from the Ministry of Culture and Information. Or not.
(But honestly, I have no idea of how the system works. I've never been invited to one of their "Open Days".)
There's always option 4, which is "wait until I get to another country with a not-so-broken censorship system". That's how I saw Return of the King. It was available on DVD, but never for theatre release, and so I first viewed it in neighboring Malaysia. But you need a passport for this tactic. The locals (who generally cannot afford passports nor plane tickets) may choose option 3 if "Sith" is available in the next month. Otherwise, they'll go for 2, just as they always have done since DVDs have been available. Visiting the theatre is a good thing for meeting friends or a date. But a good DVD, even if illegal, can last you a lifetime of repeated viewing.