Luang Prabang has no working cinema but that didn't deter Gabriel Kuperman from becoming the founder and director of the first-ever Luang Prabang Film Festival in December 2010. The festival of Southeast Asian films was a big hit with tourists and locals alike and is set to run again in 2011. We speak to Gabriel about the struggle to bring films from around the region to Luang Prabang, how Lao teens got involved, his amazement at the turnout and his hope to show Lao sub-titled films at this year's event.
Laos has produced very few films throughout its history, has just one operating cinema in the capital Vientiane and none at all in Luang Prabang. What drove you to set up the first Luang Prabang Film Festival last year in such an apparently film-unfriendly place?
Precisely the fact that there was such a small film culture in the country is why I decided to set up this festival! The main goal of our project is to help stimulate a more active film industry here in Laos, while getting the younger generations more interested in the art form. Internationally, there have been several very positive examples of film industries that have sprouted as a result film festivals started in places without much film. It is my hope that we see the same effect here, though I recognise it might be a slow process.
Can you tell us a little about what went into setting up the outdoor festival? How much work does it involve to set up a festival from scratch?
The task of setting up a film festival in a country where few people had ever heard of such an event was no easy feat. It seems I spent as much time explaining what the festival would look like, as I did planning for it. The majority of our hurdles came as a result of limited funding, though the vision and format of our festival put a great deal of extra work on our plates as well.
You can find the full interview at Travelfish.org
(The Open Air Cinema Foundation is an independent 501(c)3 organization that provides training in outdoor cinema technology to help educate, empower, and engage communities around the world. OACF recently partnered with the LPFF mentioned in this article to provide equipment and technical support throughout the event. Open Air Cinema works closely with the OACF to advance their mission by providing technical support, training, and volunteer technicians for OACF activities.)