First ever Sri Lankan Film Festival kicks off in the United States | Print edition

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From left to right: Dr. Teen Axelrod (CEO Direct Relief), Dr. Lalith Chandradasa, (Consul General of Sri Lanka), Aruni Boteju (Founder, Ceylon Film Festival Corp), Keshini Wijeguneratne (Director, Project Management and Public Relations , Sri Lanka Foundation), Dr Nandi Jasentuliyana (Deputy Director General)

Aruni Boteju, founder of the Ceylon International Film Festival Corporation launched the very first Sri Lanka Film Festival (SLFF-USA) last month in Santa Barbara, USA, with a simple ceremony. Santa Barbara, the city of arts and culture is considered the Riviera of America, the seat of the famous Santa Barbara Film Festival – SBFF. It is renowned as the original “Hollywood” in California, where the first major American film studio was built in 1910 and has produced numerous silent films.

The Mayor of Santa Barbara, Cathy Murillo, Consul General of Sri Lanka, Dr Lalith Chandradasa, Director of Direct Relief International, Dean Axelrod and Chris Alleway, Direct Relief Emergency Officer, were present among the large gathering of guests.

The support of Direct Relief International is greatly appreciated as it is not only sponsoring the festival and its launch, but it has also already sent shipments of medical supplies to help deal with the pandemic in Sri Lanka.

Documentary trailers have been screened illustrating Sri Lanka’s historical heritage and cultural sites that attract filmmakers who have taken advantage of rainforests, haunting highlands and pristine beaches to make it the filming location for many Western films, including Oscar winning films – ‘Bridge over River Kawi’, ‘Elephant Walk’ and most notably, ‘Temple of Doom’ by Stephen Spielberg. Addressing the large gathering, the keynote speaker gave an overview of the island’s film industry and noting that the island then known as Ceylon was introduced to films in the early 19th century by the occupiers. British when the film was first shown in 1901. In 1903, photographer AW Andree, of Jaffna, Sri Lanka, was the first Ceylonese to form a local film company – Coric Bioscope. Having acquired a projector abroad and gained access to an auditorium, he began to screen silent films from Europe.

1947 marked the start of the first film produced by a Sri Lankan called Kadawunu Poronduwa, or “The Broken Promise”. It marked a new era for the industry, and over time a plethora of films followed, and a number of them won.

international recognition.

Over the following decades, artists attempted to breathe new life into the industry. These include Dr. DB Nihalsingha with Weilkatara, the first Sri Lankan film in widescreen cinemascope format in 1972; Vasantha Obeysekera who followed her well-received debut Ves Gatho culminating with Palangetiyo in 1979.

Dharmasena Pathiraja is another major director who came forward during this time, who examined the tensions of the city’s youth in works such as Bambaru Awith and Ahas Gauwa. Among the films, the film Purahanda Kaluwara by Prasanna Vithanage, or “Darkness on Full Moon” is widely regarded as one of the best films made in Sri Lanka, as is Sulanga Enu Pinisa by Vimukthi Jayasundara, or “Forsekan Land” which has won the coveted Camera d ‘Ou for Best Debut Film at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.

Over the following decades, artists such as Tissa Abeysekara, Chandran Rutnam, Udayakantha Warnasooriya, HD Premaratne and Ashoka Handagama, were among the brilliant filmmakers ably supported by the exquisite cinematography of Dr DB Nihalsinghe and other filmmakers who enriched the film. Sri Lankan. industry. There are also a host of other creative filmmakers who have followed these iconic filmmakers and continue to enrich the industry.

The country’s most prestigious and influential filmmaker, Dr Lester James Peries, was the first to rise to the stars and achieve worldwide fame. With numerous awards to his name, he was the first Sri Lankan to win the prestigious award at the Venice Film Festival in 1972. Several other films by prominent producers have been screened at the Cannes, Venice and London festivals.

Sri Lanka’s film industry has been a fountain of fine literary films. Most of these works are based on Sinhala literature with controversial themes such as family relationships, terrorism, abortions, and angst.

During and after

With the Sri Lankan civil war ending in 2009, several films began to explore thorny topics such as the results of the conflict between the military and the brutal Tamil tigers in the north. Sri Lankan cinema encompasses films made almost exclusively in Sri Lanka in both Sinhala and Tamil languages, and cinema has now grown into a thriving industry.

The upcoming festival is designed to represent the rich and vibrant web of Sri Lankan films made through the creative eyes of award-winning producers, directors, writers and actors, who are our eyes to the world, and who put our world in more context. wide of history and act as advocates for a range of issues that impact society.

(Report based on keynote speech by Nandi Jasentuliyana, former Deputy Director General of the United Nations at the launch of the film festival)

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