Ancient city stages film festival without a cinema

Ancient city stages film festival without a cinema
Crowds at last year’s film festival in Luang Prabang,
PHOTO: Luang Prabang Film Festival

LUANG PRABANG, Laos - Cinema aficionados in Asia are buzzing about the Luang Prabang Film Festival, to be held Dec. 5-9 in this ancient town on the Mekong river. One of Asia's most ambitious cinematic events, it may be the world's only film festival held in a location without a single movie theatre.

Regardless, Gabriel Kuperman, the festival's American director, has developed an impressive event, now in its sixth year, eschewing the overseas commercial releases that guarantee crowds. Instead, he focuses on films made in Southeast Asia, often by local filmmakers, including those from Laos itself.

"We really believe in our mission, which is two-fold," Kuperman told the Nikkei Asian Review. "We promote the making of films in Laos, which is a great location. Then, we want to expose Laos to more films, so Laotians can see how things are done in neighbouring countries.

"Mainly, though, we wanted to create a space for Southeast Asian filmmakers to get together, have a dialogue. The focus is really creativity and culture, and actually, Luang Prabang is a perfect place for that."

The exquisitely preserved town with its ancient temples and palaces is a serene oasis at the junction of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. But Kuperman, who first visited while on holiday in 2008, could hardly have picked a more unlikely location for his film festival.

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