'Sabaidee' hopes to bridge Thailand, Laos

BANGKOK — Makers of the first Thai-Lao co-production hope the pic can help smooth out sometimes touchy relations between the neighboring countries.

“Sabaidee Luang Phrabang,” (Good Morning Luang Phrabang) is co-directed by a Thai, Sakchai Deenan, and Kiev-educated Laotian Anusorn Srisakda. This microbudget pic received its coin from both production house Sparta, based in northeastern Thailand, and Lao Art Media, a major recording label in Vientienne.

“Good Morning Luang Phrabang” costs less than $200,000, and stars Bangkok-based Australian-Laotian thesp Ananda Everinghim as a photographer who travels through Laos and meets a Laotian guide, played by Vientienne beauty queen Khamlek Palawong.

“We submitted the script to the Lao government last year, and they suggested a few alterations before giving us permission to shoot,” Thai helmer Deenan says.

“The major market will be Thailand, because the Laotian market is very small,” adds Srisakda, the Laotian director. “What we want to do is show the beauty of my country, and the film will benefit from the growing fame of Luang Prabang.”

A Bangkok release is planned for early June for the romantic road movie.

Though the two countries enjoy a relatively cordial relationship, Laos is sometimes stung by its more developed neighbor’s insensitivity in portraying Laotians in movies. In 2006, the Lao ambassador in Bangkok raised a high-profile objection against the Thai film “Mak Te” (Lucky Losers), which features a caricatured Laotian soccer team. The Thai foreign ministry had to intervene, prompting the filmmaker to apologize and change the characters’ origin to a fictitious nation.

Last year, a group of Lao women protested against Thai TV soap “Love Songs Across the Mekhong,” a love story between a Thai man and Laotian girl. They believed the portrayal of a Lao woman as a seducer did a disservice to their reputation.

Deenan says a Lao official accompanied his crew during the shoot to “give comments” and not to “supervise the production.”

The story in “Good Morning Luang Phrabang” takes its character through main tourist destinations in Laos, from Pak Xe in the south to the capital of Vientienne and the Unesco World Heritage city of Luang Phrabang.

The film is in both Thai and Lao, related but not identical languages.

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