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Sabaidee, Sabaidee Luang Prabang: A Look into Lao Film, Past and Present

Before the Pathet Lao established a single-party communist state in 1975, Laos had produced only a handful of feature films, and very little is known about these; from 1975 to 2008, just two state-supported features were produced, only one of which, Red Lotus (1988), cleared censorship review and reached domestic and international audiences. Not until 2008 would a privately-financed feature film, the Thai co-production Sabaidee Luang Prabang, see release in Laos, initiating a slow-motion florescence of domestic cinema in the years since. Unlike neighboring Cambodia, where the reacquaintance with pre-Khmer Rouge film renewed the connection with a cinematic past, Laos in 2008 was in many ways at the start of its national film history. Writing in 1999, Red Lotus director Som Ock Southiponh expressed a desire to “help build a domestic Laotian cinema culture, one that is independent and that captures the essence of Laos as a country, its people, and its deep-rooted culture and arts,” also noting that “Laotian cinema does not really exist.” Increased access to financing has led to more domestic production, but to what extent can such film be independent or rooted in Lao culture? Is it still even possible (or important) for distinct national voices to reach international audiences? This presentation will address these questions in an exploration of the history of Lao production, with a focus on the few active studios that have operated in the country, the best-known filmmakers — Anysay Keola and Mattie Do — to emerge from the Lao scene over the past 15 years, and a look at how financing (including the Lao Filmmakers Fund, administered by Blue Chair) influences production.

About the speaker

Sean Chadwell (Ph.D., Literature) has lived and worked in the United States, India, China and Laos. He has taught literature, writing and film studies courses and has published articles on advertising and film. As a researcher, he is most interested in what people are talking about when they talk about authenticity. In 2014 he became involved with the Luang Prabang Film Festival as a volunteer, joining the organization as its executive director in 2019. Dr Chadwell is Executive Director of Blue Chair (formerly Luang Prabang Film Festival).


Thursday, 16 November 2023 at 19:00


Lecture Room, 4/Floor, The Siam Society


Members and Students (to undergraduate level) — Free of charge
Non-Members — THB 200

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To book your place, please contact Khun Pinthip at 02 661 6470-3 ext 203 or

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