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Film Festival

The 1st ICLSMay 20-22, 2005 | Northern Illinois University, USA 


First International Conference on Lao Studies


Northern Illinois University

Visual Arts Building

DeKalb, IL USA

Friday, May 20, 2005

6:45 – 10:00 pm


Hosted By:

S. Steve Arounsack

President, Pacific ARC Media LLC



Welcome to the film festival portion of the First International Conference on Lao Studies. Films will be shown concurrently in three rooms. Below is the schedule of films and their show times.  Please meet at the Visual Arts Building room 100 first for a brief introduction.


Program A: Visual Arts Building Room 100

Feature Presentations. Two classic films that depict life in the homeland.

6:45 pm Introduction by Steve Arounsack and

Dara Viravong Kanlaya (script writer of Bua Daeng)

7:00 pm Bua Daeng (Red Lotus) (85 min.)

8:25 pm Luk Isan (115 min.)


Program B: Visual Arts Building Room 102

The Journey. These films focus on the circumstances of the exodus from the motherland. References are made to the war and its aftermath.

7:00 pm Bombies (57 min)

8:05 pm The Leaf, Not Yet Falling (13 min.)

8:25 pm Becoming American (60 min.)

9:30 pm Letter Back Home (15 min.)


Program C: Visual Arts Building Room 103

Modern identity. Acculturation and finding one’s identity are explored. Relationships and the struggles of “fitting in” are central themes.

7:00 pm Kelly Loves Tony (57 min.)

8:00 pm Blue Collar Buddha (57 min.)

9:00 pm Death of a Shaman (57 min.)


Note: The First International Conference on Lao Studies committee and Pacific ARC Media LLC does not necessarily endorse or promote the views expressed by these films. We have made every attempt to provide a canvas for a broad range of perspectives, ranging from independent filmmakers to larger production groups. The audience is invited to form their own opinion.  The film festival portion of the conference is organized by the Lao Studies committee members.


Bua Daeng (Red Lotus)

Run time: 85 min.  Language: Lao with English subtitles

Producer: Somouk Suthiphon

Lao PDR, 1988


Based on scripts written by Dara Kalaya, the story follows a young woman, Bua Daeng, who lives in rural Laos before and during the communist uprising. The story is set in the 1960s and follows important events in her life: finding a husband, surviving the chaos of warfare, and enduring everyday life.  Throughout it all, Bua Daeng is portrayed as having all the characteristics of an ideal Lao woman: smart, beautiful, virtuous, skillful in handicrafts, and above all the love of Communist ideologies, thus the name Bua Daeng or Red Lotus—the color of communism.


Luk Isan (A Child of the Northeast)

Run time: 115 min. Language: Lao Isan with English subtitles

Director: Choroen Lampungporn  Producer: Kunawut

Thailand, 1991


Luk Isan or A Child of the Northeast is about a year in the life of a village in Northeast Thailand during the 1930’s.  It is also about a world scarcely known in the West: the world of “Isan,” which is what the natives call their corner of Thailand.  This movie is based on Khampoun Bountavee award-winning novel which the author based on the memories of his own childhood in Isan during the depths of the Depression.  The loving, courageous family at the center of novel include a boy named Koun, who is about eight years old; his sisters Yeesoun, and Bounlai, two; and their parents, whose names we never learn.  They are called simply “Koun’s mother” and “Koun’s father,” even by their friends and family.  Khampoun also introduces a wider, equally unforgettable family: the relatives and neighbors who live in Koun’s village.  It is their bravery, their goodness of heart, and above all, their indestructible, earthy sense of humor, that shape the boy Koun’s perception of the world, and of his purpose in it. (A Child of the Northeast, translated by Susan F. Kepner).


Blue Collar Buddha

Run time: 57 min.  Language: English/Lao

USA, 1987


This is a dramatic documentary depicting the plight of America’s most recent refugees, who must struggle against the hostility developed in the post-Vietnam era. Their attempts to preserve their culture and religious heritage are met with several terrorist attacks against their Buddhist temple. By documenting the opinions of townspeople and American officials, the film depicts America’s attitudes towards refugees and immigrants.


Becoming American

Run time: 60 min. Language: English/Hmong

USA, 1982


Hang Sou, his wife and child, sister-in-law, and her five children—a strongly united Hmong tribal family—await resettlement in a refugee camp in northern Thailand.  As victims of the secret war in Laos and its political aftermath, they have lived for six years in this rural, impoverished camp. When the Hangs are informed that they will be allowed to immigrate to the United States, a twelve-thousand-mile odyssey begins. Becoming American provides a rare insight into the lives of these brave refugees and celebrates their spirit of survival.


The Leaf, Not Yet Falling

Run time: 13 min. Language: Lao with English subtitles

Producer: Vannasone Keodara

USA, 2002


Memories are very precarious: good memories can fade with time, while haunted ones remain. The Leaf, Not Yet Falling is a documentary film of a little girl’s sweet childhood memories of her homeland, Laos, her bitter experiences during the Communist Regime and the involvement of the American CIA during the secret air war era. It recaptures over two decades of experiences living in exile.


Letter Back Home

Run time: 15 min.  Language: Lao with English subtitles

Directors: Nith Lacroix & Sang Thepkaysone   Producer: Nith Lacroix

USA, 1994


An honest and compelling look at life in San Francisco's Tenderloin district for Lao and Cambodian youth. Tough and with attitude, they long for home while also carving out a life in their neighborhood. Through this bittersweet Letter Back Home, you can feel the history, resilience and strength in these youth.  This video was brought back to Laos to show the Lao youth at various temples and villages of one aspect of refugee teens living in the United States.


Second Prize, Chicago Asian American Film & Video Contest

Best New Vision Documentary Award, Berkeley Video Festival

National PBS broadcast


Death of a Shaman

Run time: 57 min. Language: English

Director: Richard Hall  Producer: Fahm Fong Saeyang

USA, 2002


In Death of a Shaman, Fahm Saeyang responds to her father's unsettled life and death by taking a reverse journey to examine the heartbreaking path he took from respectability to hopelessness-and from Southeast Asia to America-in a heartfelt personal mission to understand his tragic story. This dual journey helps Death of a Shaman examine with painful honesty how Fahm's Mien immigrant family suffered through a 20 year ordeal of poverty, racism, religions, drugs, jail, and the murder of a family member. It is a chronicle of a darker side of the pursuit of the American dream that affected many of the 40,000 Mien who came from a primitive life in the mountains of Southeast Asia to America. Death of a Shaman is also a moving account of Fahm's need to understand her father's pain, and a desire to figure out what will placate his troubled spirit and her own.



Run time: 57 min.  Language: English

Director: Jack Silberman  Producer: Lumiere Productions

USA, 2000


Between 1964 and 1973 the United States conducted a secret air war, dropping over 2 million tons of bombs and making tiny Laos the most heavily bombed country in history. Millions of these 'cluster bombs' did not explode when dropped, leaving the country massively contaminated with 'bombies' as dangerous now as when they fell a quarter century ago. Bombies examines the problem of unexploded cluster bombs through the personal experiences of a group of Laotians and foreigners and argues for their elimination as a weapon of war.


Kelly Loves Tony

Run time: 57 min.  Language: English/Mien

Producer: Spencer Nakasako

USA, 1998


Seventeen year-old Kelly Saeteurn has a dream—she calls it her "American dream." As a fresh high school graduate on her way to college, she envisions a rosy future for herself. Kelly is the first in her family of Iu-Mien refugees from Laos to have accomplished as much as she already has, but her dreams exist in sharp contrast to her reality. She is also pregnant. Her boyfriend Tony is a junior high drop out and ex-con. The brutal honesty of this film's footage and dialogue offers viewers a rare glimpse into the lives of two young people struggling to make their relationship work in the face of overwhelming obstacles like parenthood, gender issues and cultural and educational differences.



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