By Wise Kwai
THE LUANG PRABANG Film Festival returns for its sixth edition from December 5 to 9, with an all-Southeast-Asian selection that includes a new “Spotlight” programme, focusing on Cambodia.
In addition, the festival this year coincides with the 20th anniversary of the former Lao royal capital’s listing as a Unesco World Heritage site. The fest also takes place during the Elephant Caravan, which will see a team of 20 elephants marching into the city, accompanied by artists and performers in a campaign to raise awareness about the plight of the pachyderms.
The selection includes a mix of hard-hitting documentaries, such as “The Act of Killing” and its companion piece “The Look of Silence” examining genocide in Indonesia, edgy indie features like Thailand’s “Village of Hope” and Malaysia’s “Men Who Save the World”, to crowd-pleasing commercial hits, such as Thailand’s “I Fine Thank You Love You” and the Lao comedy “Really Love 2”.
Some films will be shown in the main festival venue, outdoors after dark, while others can be seen during the day at indoors at the Sofitel Luang Prabang.
As always, Laos’ newly emergent film industry provides many of the highlights, including a feature about sensitive topics of indigenous cultures and sexuality, which aren’t typically addressed in conservative official Lao media.
“We are very excited about ‘Above it All’, which is the second feature film of Lao New Wave Cinema director Anysay Keola,” says festival director Gabriel Kuperman. “Always willing to push the boundaries of censorship in Laos, Keola’s film is centred on communities never before addressed in Lao feature film, those being the LGBT and the Hmong, respectively.”
In addition to popular Lao TV comedian Jear Pacific’s “Really Love 2”, there’s also the Lao comedy “I Love You!”.
“Both are comedies that will delight our biggest audience, the local Lao,” says Kuperman. “They also reflect a growing (and necessary, of course) interest within the Lao film industry to produce movies with commercial appeal foremost in mind.”
Cambodia’s film industry, revitalised after becoming moribund in the decades following the Khmer Rouge era, is the festival’s first Spotlight programme, which devotes an entire day to one country. It was put together with help from Cambodian director Sok Visal, who serves as one of the Luang Prabang Film Festival’s “Motion Picture Ambassadors”, representatives from each country who help curate the fest’s selection.
“It’s clear that there is a film renaissance happening in Cambodia, both with features and shorts,” says Kuperman. “We wanted to find a way to acknowledge and celebrate the great strides their film industry has made in recent years. With Sok Visal as our guide, narrating throughout the Spotlight on Cambodia day, it will be a very special snapshot of the film community there.”
Cambodian flms will include Sok’s own heist comedy “Gems on the Run”, as well as the country’s submission to next year’s Oscars, “The Last Reel”, which reflects on Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge past and its lost cinematic “golden age”.
A couple of offbeat selections are documentaries, “Cambodian Space Project”, about a band recreating the sounds of 1970s Khmer psychedelic rock, and “The Search of Weng Weng”, focusing on Ernesto de la Cruz, the 83-centimetre-tall B-movie actor of Filipino martial-arts movies in the 1970s and ’80s.
“While ‘The Cambodian Space Project’ and ‘The Search for Weng Weng’ are certainly quirky, they are well-made films that tell stories we are sure our audiences will find fascinating,” Kuperman says. “LPFF has always focused on personal stories that grab people for reason or another, and our Selection Committee knew these films do just that.”
Aside from the movies, there are workshops and talks planned, with local and foreign filmmakers lending their expertise. this year’s festival will be held against the backdrop of the 20th anniversary of Luang Prabang’s listing as a Unesco World Heritage site.
“We are thrilled that the World Heritage anniversary celebrations coincided with the festival this year, as together, we will really be able to showcase the incredible town of Luang Prabang, which is famous for its mix of French colonial and traditional Lao architecture, its sparkling five-star hotels, natural surroundings, swarms of novice monks and readily available Wi-Fi,” says Kuperman. “What better way to mirror these juxtapositions by screening contemporary cinema while celebrating preserved heritage?”
LUANG PRABANG IN DECEMBER
n The Luang Prabang Film Festival runs from December 5 to 9. All screenings are free. For more details, check www.lpfilmfest.org.
n “Above it All” (Laos)
n “The Act of Killing” (Indonesia)
n “The Cambodian Space Project” (Cambodia)
n “Crocodile” (Philippines)
n “Dandelion” (Vietnam)
n “Flapping in the Middle of Nowhere” (Vietnam)
n “Gems on the Run” (Cambodia)
n “Hanuman” (Cambodia)
n “I Fine Thank You Love You” (Thailand)
n “I Love You!” (Laos)
n “The Last Executioner” (Thailand)
n “The Last Reel” (Cambodia)
n “The Look of Silence” (Indonesia)
n “Mariquina” (Philippines)
n “Men Who Saved the World” (Malaysia)
n “The Monk” (Myanmar)
n “Ms J Contemplates Her Choice” (Singapore)
n “My Teacher” (Laos)
n “Pu Bao Tai Ban – Isaan Indy” (Thailand)
n “Really Love 2” (Laos)
n “The Search for Weng Weng” (Philippines)
n “The Second Life of Thieves” (Malaysia)
n “Siti” (Indonesia)
n “Slam!” (Singapore)
n “Somboon” (Thailand)
n “Still I Strive” (Cambodia)
n “That Thing Called Meant-To-Be” (Philippines)
n “Village of Hope” (Thailand)
Special Work Print Previews:
n “Dearest Sister” (Laos)
n “River” (Laos)