×

Locarno: Sri Lanka’s Sivakumaran Pitches ‘House,’ Preps ‘Shadows’

Sri Lanka first feature filmmaker seeks post-production at Locarno’s Open Doors

LOCARNO —  Suba Sivakumaran’s has been presenting her debut project “The House of My Fathers,” at the 69th Locarno Open Doors showcase, devoted this year to national cinemas from South Asia region.

A fantasy fable, in “House,” two tiny villages – one Tamil, one Sinhala – have been locked in a feud since time immemorial. Women cannot conceive anymore. But the Tamil and Sinhala people receive a message from the gods offering a glimmer of hope: a man from one village and a woman from the other must enter the forest. Just one will come back alive.

Told as a fable, “House’s” episodes are firmly anchored in diverse events from history. Sivakumaran said. A vision of a post-conflict society in Sri Lanka, the film’s major issue, she wrote for the Open Doors brochure, is “how we deal with memory as a post-conflict society. How to make sure that we truly ‘look’ at not only what has happened, but how it has affected us and changed us.”

A Sri Lankan Tamil writer-director, Sivakumaran directed the short “I Too Have a Name,” which premiered in competition at the 2012 Berlinale. Suba has a degree from the London School of Economics and a Harvard University masters degree –both in politics and public policy.

“House” is produced by Sivakumaran’s Palmyrah Talkies, which is based in the U.K. and Sri Lanka.

“Unfortunately, most Sri Lankan Sinhalese and Tamil films are parodies of our Indian neighbour; which is for the most part [offers] a terrible and dismally uninteresting mix of boring violence, sexual domination and patriarchy and garish visual styles and sound mixes,” Sivakumaran said.

And she added: “There are a few bright spots as always, with a few Sri Lankan filmmakers who are sensitive and brave, and I look up to these filmmakers to take forward our national cinema,” citing Prasanna Vithanage (“With You, Without You”) and Vimukthi Jayasundara (“Dark in the White Light”).

The Sri Lankan cinema suffers censorship; it doesn’t help that the industry infrastructure is weak: “This is a critical issue especially post-war, as support from the state and other institutions is totally lacking, at a time when memory and imagination need to be used to overcome the effects of the war.”

An energetic, rebel spirit, Sivakumaran revealed to Variety she’s developing her next film, which has a working title of “Boxing with Shadows.” It will be set in contemporary London, among its British-Asian youth, and portray rising global racism. It also aims “to explore power and the way power affects the human heart.”

Most Open Doors projects depict demanding stories. However, “the notion of hope and humanity are strongly present, often seen through the eyes of young people in their twenties or so. Projects are often linked to important political change. Memory is a strong common theme as well as migration,” Open Doors curator Sophie Bourdon said.

The Open Doors Hub section is formed by projects from Bangladesh (Ishtiaque Zico’s “Cinema, City and Cats”) and Kamar Ahmad Simon’s “Day After Tomorrow”), Myanmar (Maung Okkar’s “Craving”), Sri Lanka (“The House of My Fathers”), Nepal (Abinash Bikram Shah’s “Season of Dragonflies”), Afghanistan (Aboozar Amini’s “The Cineaste,”) Bhutan (Tashi Gyeltshen’s “The Red Phallus”) and Pakistan (Maheen Zia’s “Then They Would Be Gone”). Out of Open Doors’ total eight projects just one –“House”– is almost finished.

John Hopewell contributed to this article

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Box Office: It Chapter Two Maintains

    Box Office: 'It: Chapter Two' Continues International Reign With $47 Million

    Pennywise’s reign of terror hasn’t wavered: Warner Bros.’ “It Chapter Two” maintained first place on box office charts, led by another strong showing overseas. The sequel, based on Stephen King’s horror novel, generated another $47 million at the international box office for a foreign tally of $169 million. After two weeks of release, “It Chapter [...]

  • First still from the set of

    Taika Waititi’s 'Jojo Rabbit' Wins Top Prize at Toronto Film Festival Awards

    Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” has won the coveted People’s Choice Award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The honor positions the film for a potential Oscar run and bolsters its awards chances. That’s good news for Fox Searchlight, which must have been disappointed by the lackluster critical reception for the movie, a dark comedy [...]

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    Box Office: 'Hustlers' Racks Up Solid $33 Million Debut, 'Goldfinch' Bombs

    “Hustlers” rolled in the Benjamins this weekend, collecting $33.2 million when it debuted in 3,250 North American theaters. Boosted by rave reviews and stellar word of mouth, “Hustlers” beat expectations and now ranks as the best start for an STX film, along with the biggest live-action opening weekend for stars Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu. [...]

  • German Cinema Is Diverse, But Is

    German Cinema Is Varied, But Is It Too Risk Averse?

    One of the strengths of German cinema is its diversity, says Simone Baumann, managing director of the national film promotion agency German Films. As well as the three films at Toronto directed by female German helmers, there was also German filmmaker Thomas Heise’s documentary film essay “Heimat Is a Space in Time.” Then there were [...]

  • Female Filmmakers in Germany Make Progress

    Female Filmmakers Surge Forward in Germany, But Still Face Obstacles

    Four feature films by German filmmakers screened at the Toronto Film Festival, and three of them were directed by women – Angela Schanelec’s “I Was at Home, But…,” winner of the Berlinale’s best director prize, Ina Weisse’s “The Audition,” and Katrin Gebbe’s “Pelican Blood,” the latter two both starring Nina Hoss. Germany’s Oscar entry this [...]

  • Bull

    Annie Silverstein's 'Bull' Takes Top Awards, Robert Pattinson Starrer 'The Lighthouse' Wins Jury Prize at Deauville

    Annie Silverstein’s feature debut “Bull” swept three awards at the 45th Deauville American Film Festival, including the Grand Prize, the Revelation Prize for best first film and the Critics’ Prize. “Bull,” a portrait of a rebellious teenage girl from South Texas, world premiered at Cannes’s Un Certain Regard and marks Silverstein’s follow up to her [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content