Vimukthi Jayasundara – Sri Lanka

He is the first Sri Lankan who became this past May the prestigious Camera d’Or award for Best First Film at the world reknowned Cannes Film Festival for his Sinhalese language film Sulanga Enu Pinisa /The Forsaken Land. He previously directed a documentary called The Land of Silence in 2001 and a short film, Empty for Love, in 2002.

He says: “If The Forsaken Land has something to do with my country’s history, it is especially through its conveyance of the suspended state of being simultaneously without war and without peace – in between the two. I wanted to capture this strange atmosphere… For me, filmmaking is an ideal vehicle for expressing the mental stress people experience as a result of the emptiness and indecisiveness they feel in their lives. With the film, I wanted to examine emotional isolation in a world where war, peace and God have become abstract notions.” (Read more on Festival de Cannes).

Vimukthi Jayasundara - Sri Lanka two.jpg
Vimukthi Jayasundara – Sri Lanka

Born in Ratnapura, southern Sri Lanka, Jayasundara worked in the advertising industry and wrote film reviews before studying at the Film and Television Institute of India from 1998 to 2001. Returning to Sri Lanka, he joined the Government Film Unit and made The Land of Silence, a black-and-white documentary about the victims of Sri Lanka’s civil war. In 2001, he received a grant to continue his film studies in France at Le Fresnoy, where renowned Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-Liang – who served as a guest lecturer to the faculty – left a lasting impression. Working with Tsai, Jayasundara made Empty for Love (2002), a short film that was selected for Cinéfondation, the student category at Cannes. Sulanga Enu Pinisa became a reality with grants from Fonds Sud and Prince Claus.
The beautifully shot film takes place in Sri Lanka in an indefinite setting, where politics, war, love and sex exist in a suspended state of being. Painfully evocative, Sulanga Enu Pinisa attempts to capture the emptiness experienced by the victims of a prolonged civil conflict, using a highly experimental visual style. Zhuang Wubin talks to Vimukthi Jayasundara in New Delhi during the 7th Osian’s-Cinefan Film Festival, the pre-eminent festival in the world for Asian cinema, where Sulanga Enu Pinisa made its Asian premiere.(Read much more on contemporary

Find Vimukthi Jayasundara on 177 blog posts by Technorati.

Sri Lankan Young Film Makers are in the process of introducing an alterative cinema culture – something they call ‘guerilla cinema’ … As a first step for the programme, a festival for amateur films made using low budget techniques will be held in Maharagama tomorrow. (See more on Colombo Page).

Some Interview-Excerpts:

Question to Vimukthi Jayasundara by France Diplomatie: How did your time at the Moulin d’Andé unfold?
Answer: Due to its isolation, the Moulin d’Andé is highly conducive to creative pursuits, unlike Paris! Here, you are free from any external constraints and it is possible to immerse yourself fully in a project. Before writing a script, I have to first imagine the film from beginning to end. This process can be long, and with regards to this process the Moulin d’Andé site provided me with great inspiration. Every day, I would take long walks, thinking about the script. When I was ready to write, everything went very quickly. I would write for hours, sometimes tearing up what I had written the day before, read extracts to people around me, waited for their reactions, then rewrote passages. Thanks to these exchanges and the tranquillity of my surroundings, I was able to complete the script in just two weeks.

Question to Vimukthi Jayasundara by Asia Source: The film seems to waver between a comment on the human condition in general and on the condition of war. What do you think is the relation between the two?
Answer: Any war film, when you call it such – and we have seen thousands of war films coming from Hollywood or other parts of the world – is generally called an “action” film, as you know. But in my experience, war in Sri Lanka or elsewhere, there is not that kind of “action” in the war. So the war in action films is completely fabricated, fictionalized by the filmmakers. None of us experience the real war and the real results of the war in that way. So I thought of putting it a different way, by completely removing the subject called “action” from the film, but of course keeping the action that is there in day-to-day life, normal people, how they behave, how they act in normal life.

Question to Vimukthi Jayasundara by Sunday Observer: How was the response to your documentary “The land of silence?” Will it be screened in Sri Lanka?
Answer: First of all, The land of silence will never have a chance to be screened in Sri Lanka. We do not have any place to show documentary films. Documentaries are not commercially released in Sri Lanka. The land of silence was selected for many film festivals, including Paris where it was screened in front of This is my moon by Asoka Handagama. After that it was screened at the opening of the MK2 Bibliotheque-Cinema where it played for one month with the film Hitler’s secretary by Andrew Hiller. The audience were appreciative of the film and very inquisitive about this unknown cinema. The Cahiers du Cinema described it as an “extraordinary first film.” This is too much but, that’s how they welcome unknown cinema. At the same time Cahiers du Cinema pointed out that the commercial release of Handagama’s This is my moon is an example of “New Wave Asian Cinema pioneered by Sri Lanka.” In my view, this French recognition of a new trend from Asia, pioneered by Prasanna Vithanage and Asoka Handagama is incredibly important. Asoka Handagama’s recent two films This is my moon and Flying with one wing have contributed greatly to this awareness among the French audience and I have benefited from this. I must specially mention that not only Asoka or Prasanna but many other new filmmakers who came through with the help of the National Film Development Fund (chaired by Tissa Abeysekara) have also contributed to this new Asian trend. It’s sad that this new wave is not recognized in Sri Lanka but by Europe and other western countries.

Question to Vimukthi Jayasundara by Richard Phillips on the World Socialist Website: Could you provide some background on The Forsaken Land and why you chose this subject?
Answer: Vimukthi Jayasundara: The film is set during the ceasefire in Sri Lanka. While there is no fighting there is an underlying sense in all the characters that they are closer to war than to peace—that fighting can erupt at any time. You feel the presence of the military in the huge flat landscape where it is set and although people attempt to get on with their daily lives their activities are limited and there is a tension and a sense that nothing can ever be right again.

Question to Vimukthi Jayasundara by Asia What was the inspiration for your film The Forsaken Land? And did you have a particular audience in mind?
Answer: Not at all. This is my first feature film. Before I did this, I had made two films: one is a documentary and one is a short film about the conflict in Sri Lanka. The documentary is about disabled army soldiers, and while I was working on it, I recorded a lot of stories about the soldiers and their backgrounds, their families, and their experiences in the war.


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