Sri Lankan auteur Vimukthi Jayasundara, whose “The Forsaken Land” (2005) won the Camera d’Or at Cannes, is readying his next project “Turtle’s Gaze on Spying Stars.”
The film is set in a future ravaged by a mysterious pandemic caused by the over dependence of mankind on technology. The protagonist is a refugee from Sri Lanka who returns to the country and is forcibly admitted into a valley resort that has been converted into an isolation facility. Once there, memories from his Sri Lankan past haunt him, but, instead of these producing fear, as is the facility’s intention, it has the opposite effect and he develops love and compassion from meeting strangers.
The film will be produced by Vincent Wang and Fred Bellaiche’s Paris-based House on Fire (“Whether the Weather is Fine”) and Sri Lanka’s Film Council Productions (“Dark in the White Light”), with Le Fresnoy Studio National des Arts Contemporains (“The Adventures of Gigi the Law”) as co-producer. It is supported by Rotterdam’s Hubert Bals Fund + Europe, France’s CNC – Aide aux CInemas du Monde fund and Taiwan Creative Content Agency’s (TAICCA) Taiwan International Co-funding Program.
“Technology is really going beyond us and at some point it will create uncontrollable diseases happening without our knowledge, like what happened with COVID-19,” Jayasundara told Variety about the film on the sidelines of the Singapore International Film Festival, where he was a mentor at the Southeast Asian Film Lab.
Since his Camera d’Or-winning debut, Jayasundara’s films, including “Between Two Worlds” (2009), “Mushrooms” (2011), “Dark in the White Light” (2015) and anthology film “Her. Him. The Other” (2018), have travelled to A-list festivals.
Sri Lanka is undergoing the worst economic crisis in its history but Jayasundara is confident about the island nation’s resilience. “We always have problems – we had 30 years of war and other uprisings happen from time to time and then we have the natural disasters like tsunamis and now the economic crisis,” Jayasundara said. “We are resilient people who somehow survive with the big support of nature and agriculture.”
Film and TV have been among the hardest hit business sectors in the country. But there is a glimmer of hope there too, Jayasundara says. “It is slowly recovering. We’ve seen some commercial films like ‘Adaraneeya Prarthana’ running pretty well, because people would love to go to cinema because there’s a problem at home. Maybe it’s cheaper than going to restaurants or somewhere else,” said Jayasundara.
However, Jayasundara adds that there is an exodus of industry practitioners going overseas due to lack of work at home.
“Turtle’s Gaze on Spying Stars” will start production in 2023.