Dharmasena Pathiraja – Soldadu Unnahe AKA Old Soldier (1981)

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Though veteran director Dharmasena Pathiraja was noted for his leftist leanings, he said that the Marxists were “out of touch with the realties of the people, their material conditions, power, and even their powerlessness.” In his 1981 drama, Soldadu Unnahe, Pathiraja depicts the realities of four friends: a soldier, a prostitute, a pimp and an alcoholic who take refuge under a Nuga tree from the loud, warlike celebration of Sri Lankan independence. The fireworks and planes overhead give the soldier of the title flashbacks, reminding him of his experiences in World War II at the end of the British Raj. What have these four unfortunates gained from independence, and what is their future? Chosen the best film of the decade 1980-1990 by the Catholic International Cinema Organization. Awards/Festivals: Sri Lankan Presidential Awards for Best Film and Best Director; Eighth Indian International Film Festival; 16th Singapore International Film Festival 2003; Jeonju International Film Festival 2009. Continue reading

Dharmasena Pathiraja – Bambaru Avith AKA The Wasps Are Here (1977)

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Malini Fonseka and Vinjaya Kamaratunga acted together in 41 films, and The Wasps are Here (1978) is one of their pairings. Fonseka is a young girl engaged to a young fisherman and Kamaratunga is the indolent aristocrat who courts her. His family takes over the market for her village’s fish. The encounter between the village and urban business methods has tragic consequences as the activist filmmaker, Dharmasena Pathiraja, shows how traditional Sri Lankan society struggles to cope with the challenges of modernity and ethnic violence. In real life Kamaratunga married the daughter of Sri Lanka’s aristocratic political family in this same year, a cinematic prince becoming political royalty. His wife became president of the country, but his own foray into politics ended tragically with his assassination in 1988. Continue reading

Dharmasena Pathiraja – Ponmani AKA Younger Sister (1977)

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Ponmani comes from the highest caste in Tamil society, but her family has fallen on hard times and can’t even pay what they owe on her married eldest sister’s dowry, let alone find dowries for her and her middle sister. Her father sits idly by, reflecting on past glories, while her brother works to pay the money owed and preserve the family honor. When she takes matters into her own hands and elopes with a boy from the lower fisherman caste, the family honor takes a deathblow. The difficulty of life for a Tamil woman whatever her caste, religion or marital status is given a feminist analysis. This black and white film from Sri Lanka’s rebel Sinhalese auteur, Dharmasena Pathiraja, shows the beauty of Jaffna, an ancient city of temples, churches and beaches, and gives us an idea of the forces behind the civil war that broke out later. Festivals: Singapore International Film Festival 2003. Continue reading

Prasanna Vithanage – Ira Madiyama (2003)

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Based on true incidents, this film revolves around three sories that unfold simultaneously. During two scorching August days, three different groups of people – thrown into the heat of the war – face different exoeriences due to circumstances beyond their control. They have to continue to exist in a society that is traumatized by nearly twenty years of war between the Sinhalese government forces, and the rebel movement from the Tamil community who are fighting for self-determination.

An eleven year old Muslim boy is struggling to keep his dog, while the family is uprooted by the rebels; a young woman, Chamari, is looking for her soldier husband who is missing in action, and a young soldier, Duminda, finds his sister among the working girls in a brothel. This film is about their quest for life…

“Ira Madiyama” or “August Sun” screened at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2004. Continue reading

Linton Semage – Mage Wam Atha AKA Pickpocket [+Extras] (2001)

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Quote:
Linton Semage’s drama Pickpocket stars a man who supports himself and his family by lifting wallets and handbags. Troubled by the ethics of his profession, he contemplates finding a more reputable line of work. During this moral quandary, he steals from a man who might be having an affair with his daughter. ~ Perry Seibert, All Movie Guide
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Vimukthi Jayasundara – Sulanga Enu Pinisa aka The forsaken land (2005)

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‘The Forsaken Land’ Tells the Tale of Sri Lanka’s Walking Wounded
By MANOHLA DARGIS (The New York Times)
Published: June 23, 2006
Some films offer up their mysteries openly; others, like the quietly affecting Sri Lankan film “The Forsaken Land,” keep their secrets close, revealing them gradually shot by shot, scene by scene. Directed and written by the young Sri Lankan filmmaker Vimukthi Jayasundara, this fine first feature takes place on a desolate stretch of wind-swept coast far from the big city and much of anything else that might evoke the modern world. Here, amid the swaying palms and an occasional pool of blood, men and women drift through life as if they were ghosts, casualties of a civil war that hangs over them like a curse. Continue reading

Dharmasiri Bandaranayake – Suddilage Kathawa (1984)

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A masterpiece of Sri Lankan cinema, “Suddilage Kathawa” or “A Woman in a Whirlpool” is the third film by Dharmasiri Bandaranayake. Swarna Mallawarachi plays the role of Suddi who is married to Romiel, a hired assassin played by Cyril Wickramage. Suddi’s life becomes complex when her husband ends up in prison and she is forced to have multiple affairs in order to support herself. Joe Abeywickrama plays the role of the village head whose brother-in-law is a shop owner played by Sommie Rathnayake. Observe how the lives of these characters are intricately nested around love, hate, deception, crime and murder. Witness the facets that greed takes in this exceptional feauture film, beautifully shot and portrayed by accomplished cinematographer Udaya Perera. Continue reading