Deepa Mehta’s ‘Funny Boy’ Lines Up World Broadcast Premiere on CBC

Deepa Mehta
Courtesy of Janick Laurent (Array)

Deepa Mehta’s “Funny Boy” is heading to the CBC.

The Canadian public broadcaster, whose film division CBC Films funded the feature with Telefilm Canada, has lined up a Dec. 4 premiere. Based on the eponymous, best-selling novel by Shyam Selvadurai, the film follows a young boy’s sexual awakening in Sri Lanka during the turbulent Tamil-Sinhalese conflict leading up to the civil war. Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY Releasing picked up the film for distribution earlier this month.

“Funny Boy” will air on CBC on Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. and will be available to stream on the broadcaster’s VOD service CBC Gem. It will also receive a theatrical release in Canada, as well as select cities throughout the U.S. in December. As revealed exclusively by Variety, the film will premiere on Netflix in the U.S., U.K., New Zealand and Australia on Dec. 10.

Shot on location in Colombo, the film explores Tamil protagonist Arjie’s (Arush Nand/Brandon Ingram) sexual awakening from a young boy, deemed “funny” by disapproving family, to a teenager enamoured by a male classmate, just as political tensions escalate between the Sinhalese and Tamils in the years leading up to the 1983 uprisings — violence that led into a 26-year civil war.

The film is co-written by Mehta and Selvadurai and produced by David Hamilton. The cast includes Nimmi Harasgama, Ali Kazmi, Agam Darshi, Seema Biswas, Rehan Mudannayake and Shivantha Wijesinha.

“My mantra as a filmmaker has always been what one of the great filmmakers of all time, Luis Buñuel, said: ‘When a film is particular, that’s the very minute it becomes universal,'” said Mehta. “‘Funny Boy,’ set on the island of Sri Lanka in the middle of its long and bloody civil war, is also a film about the power of love. In many ways, ‘Funny Boy’ reflects the times of divisiveness we are living in today, where the call for a just society, a call for humanity is what we are all striving for.”

Mehta’s films include the Elemental Trilogy — “Fire” (1996), “Earth” (1998) and “Water” (2009) — with the latter receiving an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film. Other credits include “Bollywood/Hollywood,” “Heaven on Earth” and the adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s “Midnight’s Children.”

Selvadurai’s 1994 novel “Funny Boy,” published by McClelland & Stewart, was the winner of the WH Smith Books/Books in Canada First Novel Award, and the Lambda Award for Best Gay Men’s Fiction (1997). It was also shortlisted for the Giller Prize (1994) and named an American Library Association Notable Book (1996).

The film marks the latest title in CBC Films’ slate, which includes 24 films to date, all led by female, LGBTQ2+, Indigenous and diverse filmmakers. A new Canadian film is added to the CBC Gem streaming library each week.