Luang Prabang Film Festival to Make Post-COVID Return in December – The Hollywood Reporter
Southeast Asia’s pioneering Luang Prabang Film Festival, held annually amid ancient Buddhist temples in the UNESCO-listed city in Laos, is set to hold its first post-COVID edition in December. .
The event moved to a virtual format in 2020 as the pandemic swept the world, but further budget cuts the following year forced a complete cancellation. Festival organizers say they’ve had great difficulty putting on a physical event this year, but once Laos reopened its borders to tourists in May, they went out of their way to muster support from the government and corporate sponsors.
“When our government partners reached out to us in May, the day Laos’ borders reopened, it was not at all clear about returning to a live event,” says Sean Chadwell, Executive Director of LPFF. “At that time we had an office, only because it’s the norm to pay the rent here several months in advance. No staff. Nothing in the bank.
But by early June, commitments from business partners, support from the local hospitality community and a group of dedicated volunteers had kickstarted the effort to produce a throwback festival, Caldwell says. “It’s a typical story arc,” he adds, “where you think the good guy is down for the count but he manages to get back up for the fight.”
An event based on goodwill, the Luang Prabang Film Festival presents cinema exclusively from Southeast Asia and all screenings are free and open to local audiences. The city of Luang Prabang does not have a regularly operating cinema, so the festival uses a historic open-air plaza as its main screening location. Previous editions have drawn over a thousand local viewers and interviews at nighttime screenings. The festival therefore adds a second night location to offer selections of additional films from the region.
This year, LPFF will present more than 20 Southeast Asian feature films and a program of panel discussions and Q&A sessions with guest filmmakers and industry professionals. The full festival selection will be unveiled in October.
Caldwell says the festival plans to build on this year’s revival edition in 2023 with additional industry features resuming. The event previously ran a talent development lab in partnership with the Tribeca Film Institute, giving a vital boost to several years of participating Southeast Asian film projects, including Filipino comedy-drama Leonor Will Never Die. (a Special Jury Prize at Sundance this year) and Cambodian drama White Building (a Venice Film Festival selection that became Cambodia’s Oscar entry).
“We have been quietly working on delivering Labs again in 2023,” says Caldwell, adding, “We look forward to welcoming creative filmmakers to Luang Prabang.”