Saturday, January 7, 2012

Lifescapes opens with Golden Slumbers, closes with Hi-So

The schedule is coming together for the Lifescapes Southeast Asian Film Festival from February 2 to 5 at Payap University in Chiang Mai, with the opener Golden Slumbers, a documentary on the lost classics of Cambodian cinema. The closing film is Hi-So, Aditya Assarat's drama about being bi-cultural in a mono-cultural society.

Directed by Davy Chou, the documentary Golden Slumbers looks at the "Golden Age" era of Cambodian cinema in the 1960s and its destruction under the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to '79. Have a look (and listen) at the trailer on YouTube. If you're like me, and like the old Cambodian rock 'n' roll, you'll probably also be interested in knowing about the films from that era. Golden Slumbers has been featured in festivals around the world, and won Best Southeast Asian Film at last year's Cinemanila.

The closing film, Hi-So, stars Ananda Everingham as a U.S.-schooled Thai actor who's back in Thailand and is first visited on a movie set by his American girlfriend, and he can no longer connect with her. Later, he gets a Thai girlfriend and the same things happen again. Hi-So has been on the circuit for the past year or so, and screened in Bangkok last October. It's actually back at House cinema in Bangkok, but Lifescapes will be the first chance folks have to see it in Chiang Mai.

Aside from Cambodia and Thailand, other countries represented are Burma/Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam.

Other Thai films are the documentaries Baby Arabia, about a Thai Muslim band that pours its heart and soul into an infectious blend of Arabic rock 'n' roll, and Lumpinee, about child boxers living in a Muay Thai training camp.

Another Cambodian film is Lost Loves, a genocide drama by Chhay Bora that's been five years in the making. It's just opened at the Cineplex in Phnom Penh, and you can read more about it at the Phnom Penh Post.

From Laos is At the Horizon by Anysay Keola. The first feature-length thriller ever made in the Lao P.D.R, the drama is about two men from different walks of life who are doomed to share a destiny during a night in Vientiane.

From Vietnam comes the documentary With or Without Me by Swann Dubus and Phuong Tao Tran, about two Vietnamese men fighting heroin addiction and living with HIV. There's also Hanoi Eclipse by Barley Norton, about the controversial Vietnamese band Dai Lam Linh. Fronted by two female singers, the band has caused scandal with its experimental sound and sexually explicit lyrics.

From Burma/Myanmar are pair of medium- and feature-length documentaries, Aung San Suu Kyi – Lady of No Fear and Into the Current: Burma’s Political Prisoners. There's also a pair of shorts from the Yangon Film School, including Bungkus.

Also in the works from Burma is a selection from the recent Art of Freedom Film Festival in Rangoon, among them the short Uninterruptedness.

Aside from movies, the Lifescapes fest also devotes a large bloc of its programming to panel discussions, including the States of Censorship, with four or five panelists from mainland Southeast Asia. There will also be a look at Gender & Sexuality in Myanmar and Vietnam, to accompany the Yangon Film School short Burmese Butterfly, about transgendered youth in Yangon, and the short doc, Which Way to the Sea, about lesbian couples in Vietnam.

More details about Lifescapes are sure to come on the website.

Update: Press release issued.

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