Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Time to say "Good Bye Laos"

Tuktuk When I came to Laos I had no idea about my future home. Although I was here as a tourist about 13 years ago, I lost most memories beside Luang Prabang and Phonesavanh. But since it was the 4th country to live, I wasn't expecting anything. My basic rules to survives as an expat: Don't expect anything, be open and don't look back. Settling down was kind of easy, I started learning Lao by book first, then with my teacher Noot (I was actually her first student): She took me to an acceptable level of Lao - but I was caught by the plateau problem, what means you stay on a certain and mostly low level. Anyway, it was enough to start communications with my Lao neighbours. I cannot thank my puan ban enough: Metu Champa, Kiao, San, Khuan, Joy, Noy, Ung, Jee and Mai are wonderful and kind people. Without them, life wouldn't have been as good as it was here. As a member of the Barcamp movement, I was lucky enough to had John Berns here for his visa run a month after I moved to Laos. He suggested to schedule a Barcamp meeting - three days later we had already an organisation committee. At this event I met my friend Nin, at this time still more into IT than film making, but that changed a lot. He is one of the people I admire the most and I am proud and honoured that he worked with me on my award winning short movie "Forever". I also got in contact with Day, Os, Air, Thip and Manichanh - still people I call friends in Laos. I turned a bit from IT to film, mainly to just try to organize a film camp - and it was successful. It was just once, but my mission is to plant the seed, and maybe water it a bit. This years Barcamp 2013 is organised solely by the Lao team - time to move on. The film camp got me in touch with the film community, and I was pleased to meet people like Anysay Keola, Thon, Thou, Kino, Ding, Hans, Chris and Mattie as well as Bounchao, the director of the Cinema Department and Gabriel Kuperman, Director of the Luang Prabang Film Festival. To fulfil my parents wish I studied economy after I finished my civil service, and although I changed to history and politics later, economy is always a topic of interest for me. I attended the Webwednesdays in Saigon a lot, a gathering for the internet marketing community. Since Vientiane was lacking of informal events like that, I started the Laos Business Meeting. It lasted at least 6 month, but then less participants were attending and I decided to stop it. I still think Vientiane needs it, maybe it was too early for me. So, what will I take with me and what will I leave behind in Laos? I take some language skills I can use in Thailand, a big plus. Also, cultural differences are not that big, Laos prepares me quite good for the move. I have good memories and experiences. I also got insights to the life of average Lao people in the city - something many foreigners rarely get. And I got even more convinced that the international aid business is just a business, but not designed to make a significant change. Laos, as most developing countries, is in this situation because of the way it's ruled. This system proved to be wrong in most countries in the world, and the opening in Vietnam, China and Laos to markets shows I am right. Also, as long as eduction, and it's core, the curriculum, isn't changed radically, Laos will remain a developing country. Teachers need to change their rules and behaviour, and students need to understand how important learning is (not the certificate). Finally, I learned a lot about the so called Lao culture. While it is important for any society to preserve it's heritage, culture is used quite often as an excuse for avoiding change. Unfortunately this is supported by a lot of NGOs as well. Arts never really developed, creativity isn't known here and so is invention. Laos has very few patents, and science is still in it's infancy. Laos doesn't need more farmers nor MBAs, it needs people with skills, with passion and commitment. My advice to the 20 somethings in Laos: Quit school or college, learn and PRACTISE English and/or Chinese, travel around Asia and get experience in foreign companies. I will be just an hour by flight away from Laos, so I am pretty sure I will come back from time to time (and if it is only for the food I like so much). But I am looking forward to Bangkok, to be in a much more developed environment. I don't blame Lao people for the status of the country, but personally, there are not many (intellectual) challenges for me. Since I want to do more in the film business, I think Thailand has more to offer. Laos has become a home country for a certain type of falang we know from Pattaya and the Isaan and we tried to avoid. There is a certain risk that you start lower your standards, sometimes just because you have to (just say: Mahosot). It is also still a playground for too many NGOs (and foreign aid agencies) who want to make change, but only in small projects. As long as you work close with those who are causing the problem, you can't solve it. Last but not least, the decision to move is based on the promotion of my wife Nataly. She got a new job at Diethelm Travel in the head office in Bangkok. So we will leave Laos for good, but with no regrets. Khop Chai Lai Lai, and Sok Dee Lao. Below a video of Anouxay and Sukhan playing Lao and Western guitar. Sukhan was our guard, but he and his family became good friends. I will miss them a lot.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Barcamp Vientiane 2013

Some impression from this years Barcamp.

BarCamp is an international network of user-generated conferences (or better unconferences). They are open, participatory workshop-events, whose content is provided by participants. The first BarCamps focused on early-stage web applications, and were related to open source technologies, social protocols, and open data formats. The format has also been used for a variety of other topics. In Asia, you will find also topics about culture.

Venues typically provide basic services. Free network access, usually WiFi, is crucial. In Vientiane  provided free food and drinking water.

Attendance is monetarily free and restricted only by space constraints. Participants encouraged to sign up in advance.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Trailer Handful Of Love

The trailer for a new short movie I made, in post-production now.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Barcamp Vientiane coming - gathering of tech experts, nerds and geeks

There was a break, mainly because of some international conferences in Vientiane, but the Barcamp Vientiane is back. It will be held on March 23rd at the National University of Laos, Campus Sokpaluang, Department of Science and Technology ('opposute Korean Embassy, just follow the signs). A Barcamp is a gathering of people interested in technology. You don't need to be a programmer or developer, but you need to be interested (or even passionate) about technology. There is no pre-agenda, a barcamp organize itself. So if there is a topic you want to talk about, just show up in the morning, grab a pen and write down your topic on the time table. Registration is open already, and its free! For some more information (maps etc) go the the website and/or watch this video

Friday, March 8, 2013

Lao Fashion Show

Fashion designer NITHAYA SOMSANITH showed his collection he designed with students from the French school in Vientiane.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Vientianale 2013 is over and I won the 2nd prize

That was quite a surprise: My short movie "Forever" won the 2nd prize in the Vientianale Short Film contest 2013 (thanks to the organisers  a great festival!). Below is the video. But first I want to write about about the movie.

I had the idea of that movie a while ago when I learned about a novice committed suicide in our temple.  Although it was even in the newspaper, I thought suicide is still something people in Laos don't want to talk about. (For example my neighbours didn't tell me because they thought it's bad luck to even talk about).

So the theme of the movie was given - a suicide. I was first thinking about a documentary about this novice, but wasn't sure if this would fit in a short movie. So I decided to just use the case as a starting point.

In three years I collected a lot of stories here from young people struggling - with their work, parents, partners etc. Some of these stories are part of the movie. I actually don't know a girl that committed suicide in Laos, but do have friends in Germany who did so.  I think it is a universal topic, but it's important to talk about. So I wrote a script about an average girl with kind of average problems she just can't handle. I know that many suicides have a trigger, in my movie it's the grandmas dad.

I want to show that most young people committing suicide have the same problems like you and me - so it's not something special and not worth throwing away your life.

The movie wouldn't have happend without the help of some extraordinary people. First of all my friend Nin  aka Thanavorakit Kounthawatphinyo, the most talented filmmaker in Laos, who did the cinematography and editing for the movie as well as the sound recording for the voice over. And giving me a lot much needed and appreciated advice.

Naphaphone Manoy Phalivong was assisting me in the production, translated the script and put me in touch with Phak, the main actress. She also did the voiceover and gave the movie the film the final touch. Great job!

Phaknapha PHOSITHATH turnded out to be a natural talent as actress (it was her first movie ever) and she helped me also a lot with casting.

A huge Thank you and Khop Chai Lai Lai goes to my neighbours and Lao friends, who took part in the movie. They are listed below.

Soukan Keobuaban ( Father )
Vanphew Thanmainxay( Mother )
Phetkesone SAENGTAHEUANGHOUNG ( little girl)
Anouxa PHOSITHATH ( Investor )
Anousay Keobouaban (Boyfriend)
Suaphaphone Thepbundith (Teacher)

Vilaysone Keobouabane (Student)
Sonelani Sidavong (Student)
Toupor Yangleuxay (Student)
Phiathep (Student)
Champa Meuanphachanh (Grandmother)

Sataphone Sibounheuang was sweating a lot as camera assistant and did a great job as well. Noy was very helpful in providing us her house as a location, her dog Betty as a cast member (and cold drinks).

And finally I have to thank you my wife Nataly, who gave me the time and support to make this short movie. 

The 7 minutes limit was given by the organizers, so I wrote the script accordingly. 

And now, enjoy the movie:

The Winner film is now online: Teddy Jay

And finally "Bad Dream", the 3rd prize