After more than 30 years of civil war, Sri Lanka has slowly returned to normalcy. But the work of a generation of filmmakers has been informed by the war. One of them is Vimukthi Jayasundara, whose “The Forbidden Land,” with the war as a backdrop, won the Camera d’Or at Cannes in 2005. His subsequent films have played Venice, Rotterdam and Locarno.
Jayasundara’s “The Question of Innocence,” one of 29 projects chosen for the Busan Asian Project Market, deals with life after war. It will follow a little girl who has the ability to foretell death, and the consequences this has in contemporary Sri Lankan society.
For Jayasundara, the process of cinematically dealing with the aftermath of the war began with the 2018 anthology film “Her. Him. The Other,” directed alongside his compatriots Prasanna Vithanage and Asoka Handagama, whose “Asandhimitta” is showing in Busan this year.
“Basically what we have experienced about the war is almost over now and now we need to understand a way to learn the lesson and apply it for our future,” Jayasundara told Variety.
“The Question of Innocence” is budgeted at $225,000 of which producer Sumudu Malagama has raised $94,000 so far for the Film Council Prods production. “This film is talking about the most common truth that we as humans would not like to accept,” said Jayasundara. “This is a common story to each and every country but we are keeping the reference with Sri Lankan lifestyle, but will be universal when you think about it.” In keeping with its universal theme, Jayasundara’s plans for the film after its festival run is to make it available on streaming platforms in order to reach a wide audience.
Though business picked up after the war and multiplexes are being built, Sri Lanka produces less than 30 features a year, 90% of which are funded by private investors. The country has 186 screens serving a population of 21 million. Jayasundara, who is also the president of the Filmmakers’ Guild of Sri Lanka and the head of the Colombo Film & Television Academy, said, “I believe what Sri Lanka lacks is a national policy on filmmaking and distribution. We have been discussing this for the last decade and I hope and believe these policies will take place soon.”
Meanwhile, the outlook is bright with international investment coming in. “Sri Lanka is a country which is developing day-by-day and the Sri Lankan film industry is also following the same steps. We are witnessing new faces; new blood, new people in the industry daily and I think it is a good startup. Loads of youngsters are attracted to filmmaking medium rather than other art forms and they are playing with the concepts and the basic rules,” said Jayasundara.