COLOMBO, 01 MARCH 2022
When thinking about sectarian violence and the division of people, whether it is in Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Israel, Palestine or anywhere in the world, the damage done is devastating, a world-renowned filmmaker said recently.
The award-winning director of Funny Boy and Water, Deepa Mehta made these timely comments on Friday (25) at the launch of the Abhimani Queer Film Festival 2022 in Colombo, organised by EQUAL GROUND, together with the Canadian High Commission in Sri Lanka.
The Abhimani Queer Film Festival 2022 – South Asia’s first and oldest Queer Film Festival – was launched with a screening of Funny Boy, based on Shyam Selvadurai’s best-selling novel of the same name, published in 1994. The film screening was followed by a panel discussion with Mehta, actors Nimmi Harasgama, Brandon Ingram, as well as Selvadurai joining virtually from Canada. The discussion was moderated by EQUAL GROUND Executive Director, Rosanna Flamer-Caldera.
Speaking about choosing a Sri Lankan story to bring to the silver screen, Mehta said, “there is something about Sri Lanka that feels very familiar to me. What is special about the making of Funny Boy is that, even though I had been to Sri Lanka previously to create films, this was the first time we used Sri Lanka as Sri Lanka, and not as a substitute.”
Mehta also noted that she was moved by Selvadurai’s book when she first read it because of its uniqueness.
“It spoke to me on many levels. There was such tenderness among such violence – and I fell in love with that. It is a timeless book.”
She added that it has been a difficult time for filmmakers all over the world, but Sri Lankan film industry had the potential to create great films because of the abundance of talent present in the country.
Author, Selvadurai was born and raised in Colombo, but left for Toronto, Canada in 1984. Funny Boy, his first novel, won the W.H. Smith/ Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Lambda Literary Award in the US. It was also one of the first queer books to be translated Sinhala.
“I wrote this book because I wanted a young queer person in Sri Lanka to see themselves in a book the way I never seen myself,” Selvadurai said.
He added that with Mehta’s direction and vision, the film captured the essence of the book in a way that surpassed his expectations.
Meanwhile, Harasgama and Ingram both agreed that being a part of this film has been a surreal and fantastical experience for them. Ingram kicked off his film acting career with Funny Boy, while Harasgama felt a deep connection to the character she portrayed due to Tamil and Sinhala mixed heritage.
The Film Festival was attended by over 60 guests, including the Canadian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, David McKinnon and other dignitaries.
Here are some photos from the screening!