Ahasin Wetei (Between Two Worlds) by Vimukthi Jayasundara – Sri Lanka Premiere
Our protagonist, a young man, falls from the sky into the sea. He clambers onto the shore and encounters a city filled with rioting people and streets strewn with wreckage from mayhem. There, he comes across a Chinese girl who is lost and offers her his help and his love, which is not reciprocated. He flees the violence of the city and ventures to a village where myth and legend still keep a strong hold on the inhabitants. We are introduced to a tale told by two fishermen, which refers to a young prince who is forced to hide in a tree hollow in ancient Sri Lanka to escape from the uncles whom he had been prophesised to kill.
In the village we find old men, women and children but not young men. They are hiding in the jungle to escape from unseen enemies. Here, our protagonist comes across a little boy and a woman who display their affection towards him. In this mysterious countryside, our protagonist sees incidents that he then learns happened a long time ago. He also commits acts of violence against those who are affectionate towards him and later those acts of violence prove never to have happened.
When the village’s well is found to be poisoned, all the young men who have been hiding, emerge from the jungle to bale the water away. Our protagonist joins in, and their movements become a dance and a chant followed by a celebration that ends when ghost like armed men on horseback swoop down on them. Our protagonist survives the attack, but when the woman and the little boy come looking for him they are unable to find him.
Vimukthi Jayasundara was born in 1977. After making The Land of Silence, a documentary about the victims of the civil war, and selected by numerous festivals including Marseille, Rotterdam and Berlin, he enrolled as a post-graduate at Le Fresnoy-Studio National des Arts. Following his time at Fresnoy, he directed a short film Empty for Love which was officially selected to the Cannes Film Festival in 2003 and won the Best Director Award at the Novo Mesto International Short Film Festival in 2003. At the same year he became a resident at the Cinéfondation of the Cannes Film Festival.
His first feature film, Sulanga Enu Pinisa, was shown at the official selection at the 2005 Cannes Festival (Un Certain Regard section), where he was awarded the prestigious Camera d’Or. His second feature film Ahasin Wetei was officially selected for the Competition at the Venice Film Festival in 2009 and got nominated for Achievement in Directing at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards. At the Barcelona Asian Film Festival 2010, it won the Best Asian Film Award.
Vimukthi has explored the Bengali cinema with his latest film Chhatrak which was selected for the 2011 Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight section.
A mother’s search for a daughter she has never met.
Sandhya Rani is an ageing film star who was once the darling of the silver screen. Having lost fame and fortune in a changing world, she now lives quietly in obscurity. She ekes out a living by renting out a room in her home to the young film and television stars of today to satisfy their illicit sexual desires.
The popular young film star, Shalika, uses this room to carry on an affair with a young actor. When Shalika’s husband discovers this, the scandal and its publicity forces Rani into the limelight again. Having left her husband, Shalika moves in with Rani and persuades her to join her in acting in a television soap opera. Sandhya Rani’s adoring fans are overjoyed as she returns to the public gaze. As she encounters her past again, the darker side of her rise to fame is revealed.
Her daughter, Priya, whom Rani was forced to abandon when Priya was a just an infant, is now an attractive young woman who works as a hostess in a Karaoke night club. But she is also three months pregnant and infected with HIV. Priya constantly watches her mother acting on television. Priya is bitter about her childhood abandonment and without meeting her face-to-face, Priya makes it known to her mother that she still exists and that Rani is responsible for her present plight. But this only makes Priya more lonely and depressed as she realizes she is hurting her mother. Rani’s guilt at what she did to her daughter in her rise to fame, drives her to search for Priya and seek forgiveness. But the form of her eventual forgiveness is not what she expected.
Born in 1962, Prasanna Vithanage became involved in theatre on leaving school. He translated and directed Bernard Shaw’s “Arms and the Man” in 1986, and Dario Fo’s “Trumpets and Raspberries” in 1991.
In 1992, he directed his first film “Sisila Gini Gani” (Ice of Fire). It won nine OCIC (Sri Lanka) Awards including Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress.
Four years later in 1996 was his second feature “Anantha Rathriya” (Dark Night of the Soul), which he wrote and directed. It was based on Leo Tolstoy’s last novel “Resurrection”. It participated in several international film festivals and won a Jury’s Special Mention in the First Pusan International Film Festival. The film also won all the main awards at the 1996 Sri Lanka Film Critics Forum Awards (affiliated with FIPRESCI) including awards for Most Outstanding Film, Best Director and Best Screenwriter.
“Pawuru Walalu” (Walls Within), his third feature in 1997 won the Best Actress Award doe Nita Fernando in her role as Violet, at the 1998 Singapore International Film Festival. It even won ten out of eleven awards including Best Picture and Best Director at the Sri Lanka Film Critics Forum Awards.
His fourth feature “Purahanda Kaluwara” (Death on a Full Moon Day) of the same year, 1997, which he wrote and directed was produced by NHK (Japanese Broadcasting Corporation). It won the Grand Prix at the Amiens Film Festival. Initially banned by the minister in charge of film industry, it was released after a yearlong legal battle. It was given the release under the supreme court verdict. Since it has become one of the most successful film in the more than half a century history of cinema in Sri Lanka.
Prasanna Vithanage completed “Ira Madiyama” (August Sun) his fifth film in 2003. It went on to win many international awards and was featured prominently in the world festival circuit. In 2007, Vithanage co-produced the hit film “Machan” a comedy about a group of working class con artists posing as a handball team, directed by “The Full Monty” producer Uberto Pasolini. “Machan” premiered at the 65th Venice Film Festival in 2008. It was shown widely all over the world winning 11 international awards.
2008 also saw the world premier of Prasanna Vithanage’s sixth feature film as director, “Akasa Kusum” (Flowers of the Sky) in Pusan, Korea and screened over thirty film festivals to wide acclaim winning numerous international awards.
Nino Live directed by Thisara Imbulana, World Premiere
“Every man is surrounded by a neighborhood of voluntary spies.” – George Washington
Spying has always claimed the highest position in the hierarchy of human behavior. And thus it forms the crux of the film ‘Nino Live’. Based in the modern age, the film shows how an entire life can go public in this era of wires and networks.
The film revolves around the journey of a child from adolescence to early manhood, all caught on celluloid. Ripping off his personal domain, his existence is dished out in the form of unedited footage, broadcasted live 24×7 on television. This gigantic show, named ‘Nino Live’, becomes a way of life for thousands of reality TV struck fans around the country. How his first kiss is food for entertainment to millions of people watching it live or how his mundane anecdotes are glorified to death; every chore fascinates fiercely. Without his knowledge, his actions and thoughts hypnotize an entire nation. Trapped on thousands of cameras parked where ever he puts a foot at, even the drift of an eyelash does not go unnoticed. The massive electronic and human setup thriving on this artificial world is controlled from a studio owned by an enterprising producer who during the course of the film, is established as the father of the protagonist – ‘Nino’.
The film graduates slowly to his quest of comprehending and deconstructing his life. Growing up, he deciphers each action and every event in his life. They all start to seem fabricated to him. He progressively understands he lives in a manufactured society and he needs to break free to see the real world. Many instances serve as catalysts in this process. The sudden disappearance of his beloved and the resurfacing of a different person as she, the behavioral changes he observes emerging in people close to him, make him paranoid by the day and this itch causes him to revolt out of the engineered world.
How all these episodes affect a nation thereafter and how fans of such a massive show react, take the story forward in a way which drifts beautifully. From the dilemma of the producer to the hunger of a nation, everything is suddenly left unconnected. How a ‘ Nino Live’ struck fan parallels her life exactly to that of the protagonists’ and how she finally connects these chords, outlines and structures the remainder of the film.
How I Wonder What You Are by Chinthana Dharmadasa and Udhaya Dharmawardhana
A story about a young girl and a boy who seek a human bond badly within them but has already forgotten the language of connectivity. Meanwhile on the television, the whole nation is celebrating the thrill of the Sri Lankan Army winning over Kilinochi.
D is a young guy who is totally frustrated with life for not having a reason for living on. And the boredom of living alone due to his urban life which led him to go through such an alienated passage is almost killing him. Unexpectedly a girl living with his friend comes knocking on his door and that sound only is shattering the world of silence he’s forcibly locked in. She needs a place to stay for few days for a reason that she’s not telling him at the beginning. She (Kathy) is coming to D after a little clash with her boyfriend and waiting for a call from him to be sure that the (boyfriend) still needs her very much. But that call never comes. With the thought of extracting emotional revenge from the boyfriend for his silence, she’s getting bit closer to D but her consciousness troubles her to go further. In this space the only other companion they have is the television which is trying to keep the people thrilled over the Kilinochi victory. Kathy experiences her mind blowing through a hard emotional flux and finally decides to face everything alone. While D fails to stop creating a dream around her in his own imagination which eventually grows larger than reality. Kathy says good bye to him with the sadness of being in life without knowing how humanly connected she is with the other. D only gets to accept things as they happen. But now he has a dream that makes him think that she will be coming back.
All the while, the joyful singing over the Kilinochi victory continues on TV.
Biography of Chintana Dharmadasa
Born in 1976, Chinthana graduated from the PEradeniya University, Sri Lanka and moved forward to the printed media as a film critic through publications such as the Ravaya weekly journal. His writings always questioned Sri Lankan filmmakers as to whether they were making films for festival audiences or making films that were really grounded in the land they were living in. He studied filmmaking under PRasanna Vithanage who is a well known film director in the country and made his first short film ‘Afterwards, he fell asleep’. This was selected into the best category in shorts 2005 film festival, organized by National Film Corporation, Sri Lanka. For that film Chinthana received a one year film training scholarship at the highly reputed Lodz Film School, Poland. His second short film, Insignificant, which was about the lives of people on the beach after the Tsunami disaster won the special jury award at the environmental film festival held by Asia Pacific television. How I Wonder what you are is his debut feature which he made with his friend Udaya and is already creating significant buzz within the Sri Lankan film industry due its controversial way of production (with no budgets).
Biography of Udhaya Dharmawardhana
Born in 1977, Udaya made a name for himself in the mid 90s in Art Photography. Having studied under Mr. Lal Hegoda, the most acclaimed teacher in Photography in Sri Lanka, he held 2 major photographic exhibitions in Colombo. Then he got to study Video concepts and technology at the national youth centre, Sri Lanka. Udaya is one of the most prominent music video directors in Sri Lanka who severely contributed to a music video art in Sri Lanka taking it into a new approach. He studied film directing from Mr. PRasanna Vithanage, one of the internationally acclaimed film directors of Sri Lanka and apart from above workshop he has participated in many other workshops conducted by national and international film institutes such as the National Film Archive of India and the Film and Television Institute of India, The National Film Corporation of Sri Lanka, British Council-Colombo. ‘How I Wonder What You Are’ is Udaya’s debut feature written and directed with his colleague Chinthana Dharmadasa. He is also the co-director of photography in this film. Udaya is now shooting his second film titled yet as ‘Les Papillions Noirs”, which is a France-Sri Lanka co-production.