SRI LANKA: Not Easy to Make a Sympathetic War Movie

STEPHANIE GARCIA WRITES – Ever since the end of its 26-year civil war in 2009, Sri Lanka has been in the hot seat, the constant target of allegations of war crimes from the UN and the international community. So it’s no surprise that the island-state is hyper-sensitive to criticism, particularly of its military.

These insecurities were all too evident with the premature closing of the French Film Festival in Colombo that led to a nationwide ban of the controversial movie “Flying Fish.” During its showing on Thursday, July 11, an official from the festival venue, which is government-owned, actually stormed out, condemning it for allegedly defaming the the military. Although the film had been given the stamp of approval prior to its viewing by the government’s Public Performance Board, Lakshman Hulugalla, director general for the Media Center for National Security, still avowed that the film was seditious. What was the offense? The movie was in violation for showing national military uniforms without permission from the Defense Ministry.

The film’s director, Sanjeewa Pushpakumara, who emigrated to South Korea, has stated that his film is not intended to insult the military. Rather, he said he was simply drawing from his experiences growing up during the ferocious war and his work reflects these circumstances “in a humane and artistic way.” Portraying a war that claimed over 100,000 lives in such a manner must have been a most difficult task indeed.

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