Any idea of what it’s like to be a Thai juvenile prisoner? Any idea of what it takes to become one?
Forgotten Thailand is an upcoming documentary that follows the story of one juvenile ex-prisoner named Ruun. As the film answers those questions, it also delves into even deeper issues–like how we view prisoners and “victimizers,” and how we can stop the cycle of crime.
Can you imagine being on a running track that you know is bad for you and will always lead you to either death or prison. Yet you can’t get off it. Anytime you try you get shoved right back on. It always takes you the same place, no matter what and you keep running this circle that you hate. That’s what it’s like for so many juvenile prisoners.
My “Uncle” Soonthorn is Chaplain of the prisons. He’s been family friends since before I was born. I was always so excited to see him–and couldn’t wait for him to cook his amazing Thai food for us! He’s an incredible man, with an untiring devotion to doing good and a great sense of humor while doing it. He’s seen so many complete transformations in the lives of the prisoners, and in turn he helps them get jobs, homes, and brings them back together with their family.
I’m so thrilled because there’s going to be a documentary made and Uncle Soonthorn and the prisoners and…well, I’ll let the director, Joseph Lang, tell you the rest:
The focus of this film is to ask the question of how we should treat those who have murdered, sold drugs, lead gangs in violence, thefted and so on.
It has been proven that prisoners who leave their chains usually have no where to return except the gangs and problems that got them in prison in the first place. The story that we are filming is just that story! It is the story of a boy who has been in and out of prison for years and he is put in a position of hopelessness and despair.
To even take it a step further let’s step into a Thai boys mind. Over 95% of Thai people are Buddhist and Buddhists believe in the cast system. In the cast system it is a constant fight to the top. Every man wishes that he could be higher so that he would eventually reach enlightenment. For a boy who is thrown into prison at a young age he is obviously seen as one of the lowest of lows and therefor an outcast. This is one of the reasons that Thai prisoners can not escape the prison cycle.
I have been working on this film in pr-production for about a year. Myself and Jordan Maglessen are headed to Bangkok Thailand from June 13-27, 2013. We are going to be filming for two weeks straight while there.
Our main character’s name is Ruun…he is a 20 year old boy who was once a prisoner in the Bangkok Juvenile Correctional Prisons. We will be capturing his story and filming with him around the city. I imagine that there will be many film shoots both in the day and late into the night.
Two years ago I was able to go to Bangkok for a summer internship in prison ministry. It wasn’t until then that my passion for this ministry really began. I remember one time, while visiting a juvenile prison, I stood next to a Thai officer and he leaned over to me and whispered in my ear…I will never forget the words that he said and I would have to say that they were a HUGE part in creating my desire to film this documentary…the officer whispered, “Do you see all of the boys Joseph… All of them will be let free from prison in four months..” he paused and then to my surprise finished by saying, “Then soon they will ALL be returning to prison. They won’t be coming back because of they are required to, but because they will return to their old way of living in the world and that will send them back here…it is a lifestyle that they are stuck in for the rest of their lives.” My heart was hurting for those boys. I remember looking out and seeing their faces, most of them only twelve years old and some of them as young as nine. This has been a moment that has shaped my passion for prison ministry. I have personally seen how God works through this ministry and how he can pull these boys and girls out of a viscous cycle. These people were not born to be bad or to hurt others…they have simply grown up with different surroundings than I have. Yes there are men and women who hear truth and still refuse to accept or obey it… but I believe that these people are still worth fighting for. Who are we to be judges?
Uncle Soonthorn praying with prisoners.
I have always loved film making. It is amazing to hear the power of a story. God has always worked through stories and it is my desire to share this powerful redemption story.
Ultimately I want the film to challenge to think of how they really view criminals and what our place as Christians is in dealing out justice. I also desire for men to become more aware of prison ministry…it is a ministry that is often neglected and I pray that this film will bring more support for it.
The name “Forgotten Thailand” is supposed to point to those who are so often forgotten. In Matthew 25 Jesus asks if people would remember him if he were in prison and I think we don’t take this seriously some times. It is my desire that through media and films we can bring to light what is “forgotten.”
Joseph Lang, Catching Motion Film.
To keep updated on Forgotten Thailand, ‘like’ their page on Facebook.