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The 8th annual Luang Prabang Film Festival will be held Dec. 8-13 in Luang Prabang, Laos, an UNESCO World Heritage site. All of the films at the 2017 festival were made in Southeast Asia. They are screened in their native languages with English subtitles. Post-viewing Q&As with cast and crew help bring the audience behind the scenes. In addition to feature films, the festival will screen short films and host public discussions for filmmakers and film buffs alike. Here’s a peek at some of this year’s entries.
Khuannang is a Lao film directed by Jimmy Henderson and was originally released in 2014. This drama follows a Lao woman nammed Khuannang, who moves to Vientiane from the provinces to find work in the same garment factory as her friend Sisan. Khuannang’s life becomes chaotic when she falls victim to human trafficking. Running time: 106 minutes.
Women of the Weeping River is a Filipino film that was released in 2016. The main character, Satra, has lost her husband and is initially seeking retribution for his death. Her only child, Amiya, soon dies, leaving her alone and in the midst of a long-running feud between families. She leaves her home and strives for reconciliation with the rival clan. Running time: 95 minutes.
Ada Apa Dengan Rina was released in 2013 and jumpstarted a long-dormant Brunei film industry. 2017’s Ada Apa Dengan Rina 2 is a comedy sequel in which the two main characters travel from Brunei to Vientiane, Laos, on a work trip. Their gorgeous Lao tour guide, Mina, piques both of their interests, testing their friendship and resulting in hilarity. Running time: 103 minutes.
Burma Storybook is a creative documentary produced in Myanmar and directed by Dutch couple Petr Lom and Corrine van Egeraat. This 2017 feature uses Burmese poetry to tell the story of local people recovering from years of harsh dictatorship and oppressive conditions. The filmmakers published a book by the same name featuring portraits of the poets and their work. Running time: 81 minutes.
Blood Road is a documentary chronicling American Rebecca Rusch’s 1,200-mile (1,931 km) bike ride on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Beautifully shot with interspersed archival footage of bombings and narration of her father’s letters home, Directed by Nicolas Schrunk and released in 2017, the film follows Rusch’s search for the crash site of her father’s military plane more than 40 years prior. Running time: 96 minutes.
Father and Son depicts the stark contrast between agrarian rural Vietnam and big city life. First-time director and screenwriter Luong Dinh Dung beautifully shows the story of Ca, a boy who lives with his father in the mountains. They are inseparable fishing, philosophizing and dreaming of a better life together. When Ca becomes gravely ill, the family must leave its village and journey to the city. Running time: 90 minutes.
Jailbreak is a surreal fast-paced kung fu-style movie directed by Jimmy Henderson. Set in Cambodia’s Prei Klaa prison, a Special Task Force of officers sent in for an easy escort must do battle with the country’s worst prisoners when the prisoners mutiny and take over the prison grounds. Running time: 90 minutes.
Redha (English title Beautiful Pain) is a Malay film based on real stories of families who have children with autism. This 2016 film was directed by Tunku Mona Riza and follows the story of Danial, the only son of Alina and Razlan. When Danial is diagnosed with Autism, Alina and Razlan must first understand the condition then decide how to manage their son and their relationship with each other, their families and friends. Running time: 115 minutes.
Saving Sally is fantastic eye candy, filmed with live actors and interspersed with comic book-style animation superimposed. Filmed in English, it’s a Filipino and French collaboration directed by Avid Liongoren. Marty, a comic book artist, has a huge crush on his best friend Sally. The problem is that Sally is dating a jerk and has controlling parents, both of which impede Marty’s ability to start a relationship with the object of his interest. Running time: 94 minutes.
The residents of Kampung Tirang, Indonesia, live a life of fear. Darso, the rich boss, is extorting profits while oppressing the villagers. Turah, directed by Wicaksono Wisnu Legowo, was released in 2016. This film shows the difficulty of facing the fear that perpetuates poverty and rising up against the powers that be. Running time: 82 minutes.
Filmed in English and based on true events, Unlucky Plaza was directed by Ken Kwek and released in 2014. Singapore is a nation city known for being a tourist mecca and haven for the rich. It focuses on three characters: Sky, a property manager with loads of debt; Michelle, a school teacher; and Onassis, an immigrant single father. They find themselves entangled in a very perilous situation. Running time: 122 minutes.
In Exile is a 2016 film directed by Tin Win Naing. A collaboration between Myanmar and Germany, it is a documentary about Naing’s experience in a refugee camp in Thailand. He is forced to flee Myanmar after filming controversial political footage. This 2016 film shows three refugee families as they labor in the fields of Thailand under horrific conditions. Running time: 72 minutes.
Wandering is a 2016 Thai film directed by Boonsong Nakphoo. The main character’s wife disappears, and his son dies, plunging him into a deep depression and turning him to problem drinking. Upon meeting a monk, he begins to unpack his emotions and decides to join the monkhood himself. Running time: 121 minutes.