Shot in Chiangmai, but no trace of Thailand

The action thriller No Escape has been approved for release in Thailand after the film-makers agreed not to identify the country or to portray it insensitively.

Co-writers and brothers John and Drew Dowdle tell Life that contrary to a few false reports, their movie - which was shot in Chiangmai in 2013 - has not been banned in the kingdom and will open in cinemas there next month.

Drew says: "We worked very closely with the Thai government and there were a lot of things they wanted us to shy away from.''

So although the film shows a coup breaking out in a South-east Asian city, and Owen Wilson and Lake Bell as an American couple fleeing from the chaos with their two daughters, it never specified the country.

"We were very careful not to make it Thailand in the movie, so there was no Thai language used,'' says Drew. "None of the signage is Thai and most of the language that the native population is speaking is a combination of Laotian, hill-tribe languages and other languages."

The film-makers were also instructed not to use images of the Thai monarchy and to "never show the king or the colour yellow because that's the colour of the king".

John, who also directed the movie, says they were also told "no Buddhas".

"And don't do anything bad in front of a Buddha."

"So, yes, we had a very good relationship with the Thai authorities, and I think they were happy with the movie. And they're talking about doing a film-making tax incentive in Thailand now because they had our movie and now another movie just wrapped there with Matthew McConaughey," Drew says, referring to the upcoming film Gold, a mining drama.

The brothers say they were happy to not identify Thailand in their film because they "didn't want to have the same effect as Midnight Express. "When that movie came out and people were like, 'Turkey, it's dangerous, be careful!'," says Drew, referring to the 1978 drama about an American student imprisoned in Turkey, which was criticised for its portrayal of that country.

"And that became about that country and we didn't want our movie to become about any specific country."

Moreover, in No Escape, the coup is the result of the actions of an American firm linked to the United States government.

Drew explains: "We made the coup in the movie very much about American foreign policy in the private sector and the reason certain kinds of investments are made in these countries."

Adds John: "We really didn't want the movie to come across as, 'America's awesome and everywhere else is scary!' A lot of the reason the coup is happening is American foreign policy and we worked hard to make sure that it doesn't feel like a super pro-America movie."

Alison de Souza

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2015, with the headline Shot in Chiangmai, but no trace of Thailand. Subscribe