I got into film-making by an accident.”
Xaisongkham Induangchanthy liked reading a lot when he was young and dreamed of becoming a journalist. Instead, through a series of events — including winning a scholarship to study mass communications in Singapore — he started watching and learning about films. At that time, there wasn’t much of a Lao film industry to speak of, so Induangchanthy dreamed of making films from and about his homeland, “hoping that one day I too could make Lao films and screen them overseas.”
Before then, in his small hometown of Seno, Savannakhet, his experience of cinema was limited: “there was a stand-alone cinema called Seno Rama. Sometimes, my oldest brother would carry me on his shoulders to go and watch a movie there. I have fading memories about what we were watching then.” The cinema only showed Indian movies. When he got older and moved to Savannakhet city and Vientiane, there were still few chances to watch films in cinemas, and it wasn’t until he lived in Singapore and then Australia that he gained extensive experience of cinemas. In both countries, he favored local films, such as 4:30 by Royston Tan (Singapore, 2005), and Samson and Delilah by Warwick Thornton (Australia, 2009). Now, the directors who inspire him most include Jia Zhangke, Hirokazu Kore-eda, and Zang Yi-Mou. Like Induangchanthy, many of these directors deal with themes of family and relationships, and ordinary people with extraordinary tales.
I like to explore relationships between family members. I grew up in a big family in a small village far from a big city. But since I lost both my parents and had to move to a big city and then overseas to study, work, and live, I’ve been on my own. My yearning to be reunited with my family is instilled in me; it’s always there. An image of family members sitting and having dinner together can easily move me to tears.
His films also explore the trend of people moving from rural areas to cities, and the tension between traditional ways of life and modern pressures. “People are longing to return home to re-live a simple life for a moment,” he says, “but they can’t afford to live a slow life for long; they are forced by their circumstances and responsibilities or used to living in a big city where many opportunities are.” Induangchanthy sees the theme of the clash between traditional ways of life and modernity as relevant to many communities around the world.
As a filmmaker, Induangchanthy won the top prize at the Luang Prabang Film Festival’s Talent Lab in 2017, presented by LPFF and the Tribeca Film Institute; and was also a Lao Filmmaker Fund Grantee in 2013, 2014 and 2018. All films made by Lao New Wave Cinema Productions (the company he co-founded) have been selected and shown at the LPFF in the past. Of LPFF, Induangchanthy says: “it has brought us publicity, connections, and many opportunities,” noting also that funding is a huge challenge for Lao filmmakers and that the Lao Filmmakers Fund is currently the only such funding available in the country.
In recent years, Induangchanthy started LanXang Shorts – a short film festival that focuses on a short film competition; “I was surprised by the diverse and daring films that aspiring filmmakers made and submitted. It’s very promising for the future of Lao cinema. Many young people are interested in filmmaking.” His own dream would be to have the time and funds available to produce a feature-length documentary, allowing years to follow certain characters and stories: “I believe, in Laos there are a lot of stories that are worth capturing and sharing with the world.”
Watch Trailers for His Films