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Luang Prabang festival launches in Laos
By Stephen Cremin
Mon, 22 November 2010, 18:50 PM (HKT)
The 1st Luang Prabang Film Festival (4-11 Dec) launches next month as the newest festival in Southeast Asia focusing on regional cinema. The event is timed to coincide with the 35th anniversary of the founding of the Lao People's Democratic Republic.
The festival opens in the former royal capital with Today is Better than Two Tomorrows, Anna Rodgers' Laos-shot documentary about the lives of two childhood friends — both 11-year-olds — who leave their village, one to become a monk, the other to study.
Festival director Gabriel Kuperman, who moved to Laos in 2008, is hoping to reach a broad range of audiences including locals and tourists. All screenings are free, subtitled in English and hosted in open air venues during the country's high season for tourism.
For logistical reasons, all films will be screened on DVD at the first edition of the festival. There are only a handful of cinemas in Laos, and no permanent cinema in Luang Prabang, and a country-wide shortage of trained projectionists.
Kuperman decided to focus exclusively on Southeast Asia since China and India already have strong film industries and established export markets. He hopes that the festival will play a long-term role in building a local film industry.
The inaugural lineup consists of 23 films produced in the past two years. Highlights include Mamat Khalid's noir homage When the Full Moon Rises (Kala malam bulan mangambang) and Aditya Assarat's (อาทิตย์ อัสสรัตน์) debut feature Wonderful Town (วันเดอร์ฟูล ทาวน์).
The event also includes a two-film tribute to Malaysian filmmaker Yasmin Ahmad (1958-2009) and a screening of romantic drama Good Morning Luang Prabang (สะบายดี หลวงพะบาง, 2008), the first commercial film shot in Laos since the communist movement came to power in 1975.
The films were chosen with the help of a board of ten "motion picture ambassadors" that include Rithy Panh (Cambodia), Prima Rusdi (Indonesia), Amir Muhammad (Malaysia), Yuni Hadi (Singapore) and Kong Rithdee (ก้อง ฤทธิ์ดี, Thailand).
The event is held in cooperation with the governmental Department of Cinema who approved all films screening in the festival. No cuts were required, although Kuperman chose not to submit films critical of any government or with overt sex or violence.
Laos Airlines is an official sponsor of the event. In 2012, there will be a new airport in Luang Prabang that will make the event more accessible.