Almost a decade after the conclusion of the 26-year old civil war in Sri Lanka, deep wounds are still far from healing. Much has been discussed about the atrocities that the Sinhalese-dominated Sri Lankan army meted out against the Tamil population.
Questions of whether peace has truly been established or the calm seen in the northern and eastern frontiers of the country, where the Tamil Eelam movement was concentrated, is just a sign of a people whose oppression is now total.
But the Tamil civilians who were caught in the crosshairs between a hostile, nefarious Sri Lankan army and an increasingly violent and bloodthirsty Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have their own tales to chronicle about their glaring scars. While the LTTE stemmed from the cause of Tamil Eelam, the monstrosities meted out against their own people only reveals the ironic plight of the Tamil people.
Exploring and documenting this panorama was Sri Lankan Tamil director Jude Rathnam in his movie Demons in Paradise. While it has been internationally acclaimed and even screened at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, in his own country, so far, Rathnam has not been able to exhibit it to the people.
The blackout from Jaffna Cinema Festival after ‘certain communities’ had expressed opposition to the film made Rathnam revolt against this stifling of freedom of expression.
Multiple letters have been written to the organisers but no coherent or satisfactory answers have been provided so far. The makers of the film say that the required technical standards, press material and the copy of the Public Performance Board Certificate was provided and cleared by the organisers.
The film's critical scrutiny of the Tamil Eelam movement and the infighting between rival Tamil groups, which is a recurring theme of the movie could be the reason, believe the makers. Now, other filmmakers too have withdrawn their movies scheduled to be screened, in protest of this fiasco.
Republic: Why was your movie ‘ Demons in Paradise’ dropped from the Jaffna international Cinema Festival in the last minute?
Director: Well that's the question I'm also raising, for which I've not received a satisfactory reply. Their response is very vague. In a conversation with the festival director, I was told that a group threatened them not to screen the film in the festival. When I asked for their identity they couldn't give any concrete reply. I've been trying to expose those people who threatened the organizers.
Republic: Why do you think they're trying to shield them? Who's the lobby?
Director: I only can say that this is the state of Tamil politics. It became very rigid after the armed struggle started. The group claimed it only represented the Sri Lankan Tamil community. What bothers me most is also the keenness of those Tamil liberal groups who regard to guard this. They don't want to know who these people are who claim authority to speak for the entire Tamil community.
Republic: Over years just before LTTE movement ended, the distinction between Tamil civilians and the LTTE become more distinct. Are civilians supporting your cause?
Director: They've not been given any voice at all in Tamil media. It's a complete blackout. I want the movie to be screened in the Jaffna film festival and the whole world to watch it.
Republic: Have you received any threats for being involved in this cause?
Director: No not really. Not directly except that of unscheduling of the movie in Jaffna.
Republic: How will you take the fight forward?
Director: It is a continuing fight. I've been trying to release in Sri Lanka but no distributor has picked it up yet. My intention is for people to watch it. For or against its for the people to decide and drawn their own conclusions.
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