Luang Prabang Film Festival Inspires and Showcases Lao Filmmakers
January 18, 2012
DVDs of popular Chinese, Korean, Thai, and Hollywood movies are readily available in Laos, but there are very few Lao films and only a small and nascent Lao filmmaking industry. With only a handful of movie theaters in the entire country, many citizens have never been to the cinema, and filmmaking is generally seen as a foreign industry. Not only are there few films about Laos, but even fewer told from a Lao point of view.
As part of our focus in Laos on expanding access to information, The Asia Foundation recently supported the second annual Luang Prabang Film Festival, held in partnership with the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism. The festival brings contemporary international views and ideas to Laos through film and provides a forum and encouragement for present and future Lao filmmakers.
Twenty-five feature-length films from across Southeast Asia were shown over the course of the festival, with an average audience of around 600 people per screening. All screenings were free, and most were held in open-air venues to encourage anyone with an interest to stop by. In addition, 18 short films created by Lao filmmakers were included in the festival. This was generally the biggest, and in some cases the only, public screening most of these films have ever had.
Following the main Luang Prabang festival, organizers took four of the films on a roadshow to the rural provinces of Oudomxai and Xieng Khuang for a series of mini-festivals to allow local people to participate in an international cultural event, an opportunity they would not normally have. Neither of these provinces currently has an operating movie theater.
Encouraging the next generation of filmmakers is an important focus of the festival and its related events. Prior to the festival, The Asia Foundation supported a 10-day “Filmmaking for Young Professionals Workshop,” run by the Luang Prabang Film Festival and the Language Project, for 10 Lao students aged 19-28. The participants were chosen competitively based on their ability to use the new skills they would gain in their workplaces or their future careers. The students wrote, directed, filmed, edited, and subtitled short films which were then shown at the Luang Prabang Film Festival. Since the workshop, the instructors (from Lao New Wave Cinema) have remained in touch with their students and have pledged to continue their mentoring. Watch one of these films, “A Son’s Letter,” below, or read more about the full film festival lineup.
Gretchen Kunze is The Asia Foundation’s country representative in Laos. She can be reached at [email protected]. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individuals and not those of The Asia Foundation.
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