Low temperature cathodo- and photoluminescence has been performed on nonpolar a-plane GaN films grown using epitaxial lateral overgrowth. In films overgrown at a low V–III ratio, the emission spectrum is dominated by “yellow” and “blue” luminescence bands, attributed to recombination at point defects or impurities. The intensity of this emission is observed to decrease steadily across the window region along the -c direction, possibly due to asymmetric diffusion of a point defect/impurity species. When overgrown at a higher V–III ratio, the near band edge and basal-plane stacking fault emission intensity increases by orders of magnitude and a donor–acceptor pair band is observed. Using monochromatic cathodoluminescence imaging, the various emission features are correlated with the microstructure of the film. In particular, the peak energy of the basal-plane stacking fault emission is seen to be blueshifted by ∼15meV in the wing relative to the window region, which may be related to the different strain states in the respective regions.