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Open Air NGO Film Festival: Concern Worldwide in Lao PDR

Concern Worldwide in Lao PDR

I wasn’t expecting to get much done today because it is a national holiday leading into an extended weekend. But after seeing the office for Concern Worldwide’s Laos office just down the street from my hotel I decided to stop in to take a look. Turns out that the staff were all in office today, including the regional director from the main offices in Ireland.

I only briefly introduced myself and gave a quick rundown of OACF’s plan to organize a regional NGO film festival later this year. As Concern Worldwide has offices in Cambodia and Laos we’ll be looking to see if we can find some way to work together to inform communities throughout the region about their work.

The Organization

Concern Worldwide is a non-governmental, international, humanitarian organisation dedicated to the reduction of suffering and working towards the ultimate elimination of extreme poverty in the world’s poorest countries. We are a non-religious organisation; we respect the beliefs of all people in Lao PDR. Concern Worldwide has its headquarters in Dublin, Ireland.

Concern Worldwide has been working in Lao PDR since 1992 providing development assistance to the Government in a number of provinces.

Concern Lao’s vision is of a country in which the basic needs of the people are met and in which everybody has access to the resources and opportunities necessary to lead healthy, fulfilling and peaceful lives.

Concern Lao’s mission is to improve the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable and ensure that their basic needs are fulfilled in a sustainable manner. This will be achieved by enhancing communities and individuals access to and control over resources; by strengthening the capacity of government and civil society to meet the aspirations of the people, and by promoting pro-poor policy making and participatory processes.

Concern Worldwide is guided by these core values:

  • Development is a long term process
  • Greater participation leads to greater commitment.
  • Environment must be respected.
  • Equality is a prerequisite for development.
  • Governments have primary responsibility for poverty alleviation.

Open Air Cinema Foundation Returns to Laos

I’m on a train passing over the Mekong for a return visit to Laos. The Open Air Cinema Foundation is looking to connect with the coordinators of the risk education programs at the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and UXO Lao.

There are still many active bombs and munitions leftover from the Vietnam War. Our goal is to work with these organizations to take our outdoor cinema systems into the villages to educate villagers and children how to report UXO when it is found, and avoid injury.

I’ll be visiting the offices of both organizations tomorrow and will be updating here on the blog as I go along.


OACF at the Lifescapes Film Festival: In the Middle of the Bridge

Since the Open Air Cinema Foundation has its beginnings in the town of Mae Sot on the Thai-Burma border, this film was particularly interesting to us.

Shortly after the defeat of the September Revolution in 2007, hundreds of monks tried to flee to foreign countries. Some of the leaders landed in Mae Sot, where they remained hidden underground.

The starting point for the film is based on the consequences of the Saffron Revolution that each of the protagonists has experienced in a different way.

The film focuses on the one hand on the personalities and motivation of these men, who take responsibility for one of the biggest democratic movements of our times. On the other hand the film tries to find out more about the situation and life in Burma, a country that because of its closed border policy does not allow any access to show the reality.

One year later: We meet the monks at JFK airport in New York. A further getaway into a world that couldn’t be stranger, torn out of context.

About the Directors

Karin Dürr and Carolin Röckelein work in the fields of documentary film and video artworks including room installations, stage design, video and sound compositions. The Gipfelfilm network, founded in 2003, is a collaboration between these two artists.

They have been working together with different film production houses and various artists, musicians, dancers, composers and writers. Their working process includes: concept and script, cinematography (HDV), directing and editing (Final Cut Pro).

Both studied communication-design (Diploma) and Visual and Media Anthropology (MA) and have been working in Berlin since 2007.

In 2004 they co-founded Aug.eNwald e.V. (non-profit association) and the artist and design group PopUpShop. They recently have been working closely together with Ensemble für Städtebewohner (Vienna/ Berlin), and on their own documentary and scientific projects dealing with different cultures and social grievances in a political and personal context.

Their films were shown on Arte TV (Germany and France), in different independent German cinemas (i.e. in Bamberg, Berlin and Trier) and on Film festivals in Germany, Japan and India (Cinéfleuve Saarbrücken, DOK Leipzig, GIEFF Göttingen, Kyoto shortfilm festival).

Their Video-artworks and installations were shown in various galeries and festivals, i.e. in Mannheim (‚Wunder der Prärie‘ – international festival for theater, performance, dance and arts), Frankfurt a.M. (Frankfurter Modemesse), Luxembourg (Lx5), Zürich (gallery MÜ), Trier (Cybergärten und wirkliches Grün, Kunstakademie), Berlin (English Theatre), Traunstein (Kunstraum Klosterkirche ) and Vienna (Radowanhalle, Hotel Fürstenhof).


OACF at the Lifescapes Film Festival: Burma in Pieces

Shot in Burma and Thailand over 2 years, Burma In Pieces is a poetic sound and visual metaphor of life under a military dictatorship, pieced together from 150 hours of original material, interviews and archive footage. Filmed on bustling city streets and in remote mountain villages, in trains and markets, guerrilla resistance compounds in the landmine infested Burmese jungle, refugee camps on the Thai border, Buddhist temples, schools and kick boxing tournaments, the film offers intimate and unique observations of life in Burma under the shadow of the military dictatorship that controls it.

For decades, the horrific human rights violations and political oppression in Burma has gone untold and unnoticed by the world, and while this situation has changed in recent years, Burma is still a closed society and its people remain distant statistics in a world desensitized by the horrors of conflict.

During the Lifescapes Film Festival OACF was able to connect with several organizations working closely with migrant and refugee communities along the Thai-Burma border. We are now establishing partnerships with these organizations to conduct open air film screenings in the border areas around Mae Sot, Sangklaburi and Mae Hong Son.


Lifescapes Film Festival: Agrarian Utopia

We have had a fantastic time at the Lifescapes Film Festival in Chiang Mai. The selection of films so far has been spot on. The Open Air Cinema Foundation (OACF) is looking to work with many of the directors here to find ways to screen their work on open air screens throughout the region, particularly during OACF’s Mekong Mobile Film Festival to take place next year.

Agrarian Utopia was the first film screened at the festival today. Its a beautiful film by Uruphong Raksasad. Take a look at the trailer for a glimpse.

Agrarian Utopia

Facing seizure of their own lands, two families found themselves farming together on the same field, hoping to get through just another rice-farming season like every year. But no matter how much the world is evolving, how much the country is going through economic, political and social changes, they still cannot grasp that ideology of happiness.

How can we dream of utopia while our stomach is still grumbling?

The Director

Born in 1977 to a farming family in the district of Terng – 60 kilometres from Chiang Rai, northern part of Thailand, Uruphong Raksasad came to Bangkok for the first time when he was 18 to further his study at Thammasat University’s Faculty of Journalism and Mass Communications, where he majored in film and photography. After graduation in 2000, he had worked as a film editor and post-production supervisor for several Thai feature films. Since 2004, he left quietly from the industry and has tried to achieve his grassroots filmmaking through the story from his home village.

Apart from filmmaking, what interests me to an equal extent is agriculture. I feel it is among mankind’s most noble professions. To compare, in agriculture we get to produce food from the soil for direct consumption, while other occupations only produce us income for buying food. I wonder whether all these professions we have in the world (including filmmaking) are really necessary. How much does the world really need them? I feel that the more we complicate things, the more it produces emptiness and unfulfillment in return, one way or another.

Modern agriculture is facing problems on many levels, from land ownership to national policy’s focus on economic growth and international competition. What are all these for ultimately? I wonder if globalization forces today have become much more powerful than national governments. I don’t know where it will take us.

Agriculture in Thailand today, and perhaps throughout the world as well, is mostly no longer about household use. It’s just another industrial business of trades, with an aim to make money for solving other problems that we caused, directly and indirectly. So farmers now need to focus on productivity by using chemicals and machines, and obviously they put less importance on food safety. With this, Thailand no longer has what it takes to claim to be the granary of the world. I was born a farmer’s son. Although my parents didn’t expect me to farm for a living, as they see it’s hard work and earns little. We can no longer farm in any case for two reasons: one is that the bank has already taken almost all our lands. And second, farming won’t help us paying off all our debts in this lifetime. We are not able to live the idealistic, utopian life. We can only do the best we could to get by, that’s all.


Chiang Mai, Thailand: Open Air Cinema Foundation at the Lifescapes Southeast Asia Film Festival

We will be hopping a flight bright and early tomorrow morning for Chiang Mai (Thailand) to attend the Lifescapes Southeast Asia Film Festival. The Lifescapes program will screen contemporary films – documentary, docu-drama, dramatic – to showcase thoughtful work with a social conscience. The festival hopes to raise awareness the film culture and filmmakers of Southeast Asia who make meaningful social commentary with their work – showing the “beautiful” without flinching from “grim reality.”

The films will explore regional issues within mainland Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Lao, Burma/Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. The program will be interactive, offering directors, producers, NGO representatives, and audience members the opportunity to join together in post-screening Q&A sessions, panel discussions, and talks throughout the program.

In addition to the films, presentations include the use of music in film, the purpose of film to merge beauty, entertainment and social conscience, as well as film censorship in SE Asia. We will also hear from training organizations in SE Asia who provide opportunity for young, local filmmakers to tell their stories through film.

The main objectives of the Lifescapes Film Festival are right in line with the mission of the Open Air Cinema Foundation:

Objective 1
To use film and cinematic art as a medium to explore regional issues and human rights struggles within the five mainland Southeast Asian countries: Cambodia, Laos, Burma/Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam (Mekong Sub-Region).

Objective 2
To celebrate Southeast Asian filmmakers who insert meaningful and necessary social commentary into their work; thus, successfully merging cinematic aesthetic and social conscience.

Objective 3
To converge the media, education, and NGO sectors in the Mekong Sub-Region to engage in dialogue, forge relationships, and build ideas between groups to further global and regional initiatives.


Luang Prabang, Laos: UNICEF’s One Minutes Jr Video Clips Screened in the Open Air

One of the most interesting components of the Luang Prabang Film Festival was the One Minutes Jr. program. Fifteen young students from Laos participated in filmmaking workshops held in Vientiane, Laos. By the end of the workshops each student had produced a simple one minute digital short. Each short was screened on an open air movie screen on the opening night of the film festival.

Oneminutesjr videos are sixty-second videos made by young people (between the ages of 12 and 20) from all over the world. Time may be limited in a oneminutesjr video (this challenges the youngsters to form their ideas clearly), but not the freedom to express oneself creatively, which is the basic right of every person.

The oneminutesjr network is a non-commercial community without any set political belief or ideology. The network gives young people, especially those who are underprivileged or marginalised, the opportunity to have their voices heard by a broad audience. To share with the world their ideas, dreams, fascinations, anxieties and viewpoints.

All the oneminutesjr video clips screened at the Luang Prabang Film Festival are available for viewing online at