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Learning from Laos

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I was in Luang Prabang last weekend _ for a film festival, of all things. A giant screen was put up in the main square near the Handicraft Market, and for five nights people _ mostly local, with a fair sprinkling of tourists _ turned up in the hundreds to watch movies under the black night. Luang Prabang, with its functional archaeology of ancient, glorious buildings, has no cinemas. That's even better, we could say, for the effort to boost the appetite for moving images and the idea of movies as a collective experience. 

This is the third year of the Luang Prabang Film Festival (LPFF), spearheaded by Gabriel Kupperman, an American guy who's been living in the city for years.

The festival, in a prescient move, is devoted to Southeast Asian films, and this year we saw titles from Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, and of course Laos. Don't be surprised that people in Laos and Myanmar also make movies: they do, more and more so these days, and we in Thailand only have ourselves to blame if we're ignorant of that fact, or if we're deprived of a channel, official or otherwise, to watch them.

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