Bolder Line-up At Luang Prabang Film Festival

Entering its sixth year, the Luang Prabang Film Festival marches on. This year LPFF, the only film event in the historic town on the bank of the Mekong, will take place from Dec 5-9, with around 40 feature films from across Southeast Asia.

The festival, run by Lao-based American Gabriel Kupperman, has grown over the years. And even though Luang Prabang still has no cinema, that doesn’t dampen a sense of local enthusiasm. Every year, the main venue is an outdoor screen at the town square near Handicraft Market, which seats hundreds of spectators every night. There are smaller venues scattered around town.

This year, the line-up looks bolder. The festival will show two acclaimed documentaries from Indonesia (the director, Joshua Oppenheimer, is an American), The Act of Killing and The Look Of Silence, both revisiting the horror and aftermath of the mass killings of dissenters in the military-ruled Indonesia of the 60s. From the Philippines is Crocodile, a haunting tale of a swampland village terrorised by a reptile, and from Malaysia is Men Who Saved The World, a satirical comedy about a group of villagers and their religious/superstitious belief (the film represents Malaysia in this year’s Oscar).

There are five Thai films in the programme. Running a wide gamut, the selection has picked the blockbuster comedy I Fine, Thank You, Love You, 2014’s box office champion; a heavy drama The Last Executioner, about Thailand’s last firing squad; Pu Bao Tai Baan: Isan Indy, a northeastern comedy film that was huge success in the region — and should connect well with Lao audience; Somboon is a documentary film about the life of an old couple; and Village Of Hope, a social-realist drama set in a small village.

LPFF is a platform for budding Lao filmmakers, and this year the festival will show six Lao movies, Above It All, I Love You!, Really Love 2, My Teacher, Dearest Sister and River. Moreover, the festival will present a collection of 21 video works and three animated films, in which ethnic minority women in Laos tell traditional folk tales. The project is part of the campaign to preserve intangible cultural heritage, produced by LPFF and the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre with the support from the US State Department.

From its struggling first year to now, the LPFF has come to embody the nascent excitement in film and filmmaking in Laos. This year the Lao Department of Cinema, a government body, will host a seminar that aims to encourage foreign film production in the country. Meanwhile, its focus on Southeast Asian cinema is still a selling point; this year the festival introduces the Spotlight section, with Cambodia picked as the curtain-raiser of this new element — an entire day will be devoted to screening and discussion of Cambodian cinema.

This year’s festival coincides with the celebration of the 20th anniversary of Luang Prabang’s Unesco World Heritage status, and the LPFF will work in collaboration with the project with special events.

Anyway, plan your trip — for one of the region’s most charming towns, and of course for five days of cinema in a unique atmosphere.

Visit www.lpfilmfest.org or facebook.com/lpfilmfest for more.

Source: Bangkok Post