Thai & Lao Culture in ‘Sabaidee Luang Prabang’

Sabaidee Luang Prabang (Good morning, Luang Prabang, 2008, directed by Sakchai Deenan) is a romantic drama movie starring Thai movie star Ananda Everingham who is of Lao-Australian descent. The special feature of this film is that it deals with the relationship between Thailand and Laos. What is more, it is also the first Thai-Laotian commercial film since 1975. In my view this is a special and beautiful movie because it shows the amazing landscape in Laos.

Sabaidee Luang Prabang

Sabaidee Luang Prabang, Sorn (Everingham) & Noi (Pallawong) (photo credit: nationmultimedia.com)

Sabaidee Luang Prabang, Sorn (Everingham) & Noi (Pallawong) (photo credit: nationmultimedia.com)

The plot of the movie is relatively simple: Sorn (played by A. Everingham) is a Thai photographer visiting Laos. There he falls in love with his lovely Laotian tour guide, Noi (Khamlek Pallawong). The film features and focusses on several tourist sites in Laos and points out the differences between Thailand and Laos. This contrast is already depicted in the trailer to the movie.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOLgjH_xqhg

In fact, the film is shot primarily outdoors, thus using a kind of road movie approach. The settings in Laos contrast sharply with Bangkok because the latter is presented as a hectic metropolitan city whereas life in Laos appears to be more calm and harmonic. In addition, the Laotian scenery is green, pristine and unspoiled by modernity.

Ananda in Luang Prabang*

Ananda in Luang Prabang*

The first part of the movie presents the protagonist Sorn as a small creature surrounded by the city skyline in Bangkok. However, in Laos, Sorn experiences an easy atmosphere of small towns where people have a simple lifestyle and are still connected with their local traditions.

Luang Prabang, which is also a world heritage site, is the central motif of the movie. Hence, it appears in the film title and it is the place where the protagonists move around at the end of the movie, showing the natural and historical sites of the town.

Ananda plays the photographer Sorn*

Ananda frequently plays the role of photographers*

Thus, the audience gets the impression of Laos being a place unspoiled by modernity compared to Bangkok city. What is more, the untouched towns stand for a kind of utopian space where everyone lives in contentment. Even though the settings in Thailand and Laos are opposed to each other, the movie also stresses similarities between Thai and Lao culture.

For instance, the title of the film points out a similarity but also a difference between Thai and Lao language. In Lao, Sabaidee Luang Prabang means Hello Luang Prabang whereas in Thai it will rather say I’m fine Luang Prabang or in interrogative sentence ‘How are you?‘. However, although the literal translation of the title is not identical in Thai and Lao, the word ‘Sabaidee’ is understood as a greeting in both cultures.

Amazing sky in Luang Prabang, an unspoiled place*

Amazing sky in Luang Prabang, an unspoiled place*

What is more, there are many tourism elements in the movie that seem to encourage the audience wanting to go to Laos. For example, every time Sorn and Noi move from one town to another the caption will be shown ensuring that the audience knows where the place is. Sometimes it is also explained in the movie how to get to the respective places.

In addition, since Noi is a tour guide she often explains about natural and historical places to Sorn who is a photographer and thus captures the beautiful scenery on his photos. Thus, the film title and the intact scenery shown in the movie make it to a kind of ‘tourism film’.

Hello Luang Prabang (photo credit: viki.com)

Sorn & Noi (photo credit: viki.com)

In a nutshell, we may say that even though the plot is simple, Sabaidee Luang Prabang is a great film, admirable for its beautiful presentations of local Lao landmarks. Indeed, it can be called a ‘tourism movie’ because the viewer feels inspired to explore the natural scenery of Luang Prabang, Laos. In addition, the role of photographer Sorn seems to be tailor-made for Ananda Everingham 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

*photo credit: Ananda Everingham, FB page




Ananda Everingham: Thai Movie Star

Ananda Everingham can be regarded as the foremost Thai movie star although he has no Thai origins. Born 1982 in Thailand, Ananda is in fact of Australian-Laotian descent and had Australian nationality until a few years ago, when he received Thai nationality. His father is the Australian photojournalist John Everingham who has lived in Thailand since the 1970s and his mother, Keo Sirisomphone, is from Laos. In his youth, Ananda travelled with his father through Asian countries and was a kind of assistant to his Dad who worked as a photographer.

Ananda Everingham

Ananda Everingham*

Ananda Everingham*

By the way, the meeting of Ananda’s parents was roughly dramatized in the 1983 NBC television movie ‘Love Is Forever’ or ‘Comeback’ with Michael Landon and Laura Gemser in the leading roles. The story is about John Everingham who dives in the Mekong river and rescues his girlfriend from the communist regime in Laos. Well, it might seem a pathetic tale but Ananda also enjoys telling the story in interviews like this one which is in fact quite amusing and entertaining 😉

Hence, it was a fine start for Ananda’s own career as an actor and model. Thus, he tells us in the interview that he was discovered relatively early in his youth, at the age of 14, when he was working in his parent’s Indian restaurant in Bangkok. Since then, he has had leading roles in numerous Thai movies but also in other Asian films.

Movie star Ananda Everingham*

Movie star Ananda Everingham*

It was the Thai horror movie ‘Shutter’ (2004) that made Everingham famous as an actor in Thailand. There was even a Hollywood remake of ‘Shutter’ in 2008. This movie is mainly about a young photographer named Thun and his girlfriend Jane who have a car accident with a young woman. They run the woman over and she dies on the street because they do not help her. It is a case of a hit and run accident. Consequently, the are haunted by the dead woman’s spirit and discover mysterious shadows and supernatural images in their photographs. The woman’s ghost is revengeful and this is also a recurrent theme in Thai horror movies. Here is a clip from ‘Shutter’ to give you an impression.

Ananda has starred in a number of other Thai horror films, for instance in Ghost Delivery (2003) and most recently in O.T. Ghost Overtime (2014) which is a horror comedy. However, he also starred in romantic dramas like ‘Bangkok Time’ and ‘Me…Myself’ in 2007. Another important movie in his career so far is ‘Hi So’ (High Society, 2010) since he plays himself in this film. It is quite striking that Ananda requently plays photographers in films, thus also in ‘Happy Birthday’ (2009), a role for which he was awarded ‘Best Actor’ by the Thailand National Film Association Awards. ‘Happy Birthday’ is about love and hope, to put it in a nutshell.

An important movie in Everingham’s career so far is the 2008 Thai-Lao romantic drama ‘Sabaidee Luang Prabang’ (Good morning, Luang Prabang) because it deals with the relationship between Thailand and Laos and it is also the first Thai-Laotian commercial film since 1975.

Ananda plays the photographer Sorn*

Ananda often plays photographers in his movies*

In this movie, he also plays a photographer from Thailand who visits Laos. In fact, photography appears to be very important and thus a recurrent subject in his films. If you take a look at Ananda’s Instagram account, you will notice that he enjoys taking beautiful landscape photos among others 😉

What is more, Ananda has been in numerous TV series and starred in a variety of different film genres. For example, he was in the historical fantasy adventure film ‘Queens of Langkasuka’ (2008) and the very popular Thai romantic drama ‘Eternity’ (Chua fah din salai, 2010).

Getting ready for a historical movie like the 'Queens of Langkarsuka'*

Getting ready for a historical movie like the ‘Queens of Langkasuka’*

In this movie, he starred alongside famous Thai actress Laila Boonyasak (Ploy Chermarn). ‘Eternity’ is about the young man Sangmong (Ananda) who falls in love with his uncle’s wife Yupadee (Ploy). This is a tragic story since Yupadee finally commits suicide and Songmong becomes mad with grief and agony.

In conclusion, we may say that there is a lot of Mr. Everingham in each character that he plays. I think he can identify with the figures that he embodies. Thus, he claims that it’s his task to find truth in each movie script and character. He chooses his roles according to the physicality of the character and dreams of doing some slapstick and situation comedy in the near future 🙂

Ananda*

Ananda*

I think Ananda Everingham is a charismatic actor and always cuts quite a figure. Somehow he reminds me of Jhonny Depp. In addition, he is also a half-Asian person and may thus be regarded as an example of a ‘luk kreung’ who has become very successful in Thailand. Do you know any of his movies? Which one do you like?

Yours, Sirinya

*photo credit: Ananda Everingham, FB page