Feature 32 films from across SEA
Luang Prabang is a tranquil town with an abundance of historic Buddhist temples and no working movie theater—not exactly a likely place to start a film festival.
But that is exactly what Gabriel Kuperman did after moving to the sleepy UNESCO World Heritage Site town in 2008. Now in its seventh year, the Luang Prabang Film Festival (LPFF) screens films from across Southeast Asia for five days and six nights in early December. The film lineup is curated by a group of experts and critics from across Southeast Asia—one from each nation—referred to by LPFF as their “Motion Picture Ambassadors.” The festival has grown to be one of the largest non-religious annual events in Laos and a place for dialogue between filmmakers and audiences from all ASEAN nations.
During the festival, Luang Prabang becomes a film fanatic’s heaven. Throughout the day, films are screened at Sofitel Luang Prabang’s lush property. From there, a free tuktuk shuttle service can take you back to the center of town where the Night Venue is located. Compared to the day screenings, an evening screening is a less intimate affair, with 800 blue chairs set up in front of a large screen in a courtyard that is otherwise filled with handicraft market tents. However, the audiences at these screenings usually reach over 1,500 people, with the crowd spilling over into the street and onto a nearby hill that offers a good vantage point for movie watching.
But LPFF has much more to offer than just films. During the festival, there are live performances, celebrity appearances, art exhibitions, and public discussions with filmmakers and industry professionals.
During the rest of the year, when the festival hubbub is not taking over Luang Prabang, LPFF is also doing what it can to drive forward Laos’ s budding film industry. In 2013, LPFF founded the Lao Filmmakers Fund, a publicly generated fund that allows Lao filmmakers to apply for small grants to help realize film projects—the first of its kind in Laos.
This year’s festival will occur from 2-7 December and will feature 32 films from across Southeast Asia. Well over half of these films will have filmmakers, actors, or producers in attendance at the festival. Celebrities have been known to attend in the past, so fans looking for a “selfie” with their favorite star will be in the right place.
Each day, there will be four feature films screened at the Day Venue, a live performance at 6.00 pm at the Night Venue, and two feature films also at the Night Venue. Public discussions take place at 2.00 pm at the Day Venue. As always, all screenings and events are free and open to the public.
In an exciting new partnership, staff from the Tribeca Film Institute® (TFI) will lead a Talent Lab for Southeast Asian filmmakers on grant writing and project pitching at the festival. TFI will select one project to attend the TFI Network market at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival® in New York City, where the filmmaker will meet with editors, distributors, and financiers. TFI will then mentor the filmmaker through the completion of the project.
Banana Pancakes and the Children of Sticky Rice
Two worlds converge in a small village in northern Laos where Daan Veldhuizen’s documentary lays its scene. A group of backpackers arrives in search of an untouched, “authentic” experience, while many people in the village long for modernity. This confluence of conflicting cultures and oppositional desires serves as a poetic meditation on how humans relate in a rapidly globalizing world.
In Brillante Mendoza’s gritty family drama, Ma’ Rosa and her husband own a small convenience store in Manila, but they resell narcotics on the side to make ends meet. When one day they are arrested, Rosa’s four children go to extreme lengths to buy their parents’ freedom from the police. In this saga of drugs, bribery, and familial ties, Mendoza gives a stunning and uncompromising portrait of police corruption.
Tran Phuong Thao and Swann Dubus’s documentary traces the journey of a young transgender woman in Vietnam. From an early age, Phong feels like a girl inside a boy’s body, but it’s not until moving to university in Hanoi does she discover that other people share this feeling. Several years later, Phong begins physically transitioning from male to female. Using excerpts from Phong’s intimate video journal, the movie follows her struggle during this process and her encounters with family, friends, colleagues and doctors who must come to terms with her transition.
In Davy Chou’s Diamond Island, 18-year-old Bora leaves his village to work on the construction sites of Diamond Island—a project for an ultra-modern paradise for the rich and a symbol of tomorrow’s Cambodia. There he finds his elder brother, the charismatic Solei, who went missing five years earlier. Solei introduces Bora into an exciting world: that of wealthy urban youth, with all its girls, nights and illusions.
Text by: Gabriel Kuperman
Photos by: LPFF
Luang Prabang Film Festival
2-7 December 2016