Saturday, December 10, 2011

Ruins of a Socialist Cinema Hall: The Lao-Viet Cultural Hall of Friendship revisited

This was my second visit to Udomxay, and I still find myself captivated by its withering hulk of socialist architecture. Its lone cinema hall - The Lao-Viet Cultural Hall of Friendship.

I wrote about this theater a few years ago after my initial visit. In sum, it was built as a gift to the city of Udomxay by the Vietnamese government. Big comrade to little comrade, back when the honorific had a place in the regional lexicon.

Standing in front of it you can feel the communist ideology radiating out. The glory of the Party, its infallibility, its omnipresent weight leading the way to a workers paradise.

This architecture and this ideology seem so distant when juxtaposed with the hideous shape of capitalism that has taken root in Udomxay. Of course, one might argue that the Lao-Viet C.H.F. is pretty repulsive in its own right.

Party slogans "Long live the People's Democratic Republic of Laos, long live the Lao People's Party" hang above where the screen once was.

Two years after my first visit, the place is noticeably deteriorated. There is simply no way that it will be around much longer. So if you are traveling through northern Laos, I recommend a trip to Udomxay just to see it. Bask, for a few moments, in the remnants of a failed system. You will not be disappointed.

For a little bit of make-believe perspective.

1 comment:

  1. We were just there a few weeks ago with the Luang Prabang Film Festival to do an open air screening in front of the theater:

    Fascinating to learn the history behind it. Thanks!