Lankan cinematography to feature in United States
The reels of several Sri Lankan cinematic masterpieces will unfold in Santa Barbara USA at the first Ceylon Film Festival in America scheduled to take place in June 2022. It was successfully launched recently amidst a distinguished gathering of sponsors and film buffs at the Direct Relief Auditorium in Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara, a seaside resort known as the Rivera of America, a favourite of artists, musicians, writers, is the pre-Hollywood film capital of America. Santa Barbara is the home of the prestigious Annual Santa Barbara Film Festival.
The Ceylon Film Festival is the brainchild of Aruni Boteju, the Founder President of the Ceylon International Film Festival Corporation. A banker by profession, she has been an event organizer and has organized a number of Art Exhibitions. More recently, she has turned to the movie world and has produced her first film, which will be released in 2022.
The mission of the Corporation is to create opportunities for Sri Lankan filmmakers to showcase their creativity at the international level and link Sri Lankan Cinema with Hollywood. To that end, Aruni and her organization plan to provide necessary education through master classes programmes and workshops and provide scholarships to Sri Lankan youth and filmmakers, including the backstage crew, to expand their knowledge of the art of making films.
The Corporation is exploring the possibility of establishing an ongoing Diploma programme based at the Santa Barbara City College, which has a reputed programme in Film and Theatre. It is envisaged that it will comprise both onsite and online programmes with courses in the entire gamut of filmmaking, including instructions in writing, editing, and the use of new technologies in movie production. Following the completion of the programme, the Corporation is envisaging continuing support by providing grants to encourage new productions.
The festival is being organized on a grand scale to the standards of international festivals. It will include feature films, short subject films, documentaries, and animations and will be a competition category festival. A couple of Sri Lankan classics will also be screened.
One other occasion when Sri Lankan movies were featured in an American film festival was in 2014. The 10th Annual Seatle South Asian Film Festival (SSAFF) showcased Sri Lanka. The stated reason for the choice was that “The Festival wanted to acknowledge the strides that the country’s film industry has made over the years and give voice to new and emerging voices in South Asian cinema that tends to be dominated by countries such as India and to some extent Pakistan.”
The festival hosted 18 visiting filmmakers. There were 27 screenings, two educational panels co-presented with Washington Filmworks and The Film School. Sri Lankan filmmaker Prasanna Vithanage was awarded the annual Seattle South Asian Film Emerald Award with a screening of his film, “With You, Without You.” It depicted a troubled, multifaceted relationship between an older man and a younger woman as they navigate disease, the aftereffects of war, and their two very different worlds. In addition to films and filmmaker presentations, the Festival also hosted a symposium on “Human Rights and the Politics of Filmmaking in South Asia.”
There is a handful of South Asian Film Festivals in the United States established in the last twenty years or so. They are, of course, dominated by Indian movies, and rarely has any Sri Lankan movie been a part of any.
The San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival (SFISAFF) features the best independent cinema from South Asia and the Diaspora. It seeks to screen the best Indian films, including a bit of Bollywood.
The South Asian International Film Festival (SAIFF), established in 2018, is considered the biggest festival for South Asian filmmakers in the United States! SAIFF was founded in New York City to support many emerging filmmakers, and because of the underrepresentation of Indian cinema in a capital recognized by the world as the birthplace of independent filmmaking! The Festival exhibits films from South Asia (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal) and within the South Asian Diaspora in America, giving unprecedented exposure for filmmakers from the region and unparalleled experiences for its attendees.
Established 38 years back, Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF), has since its inception in 1983, presented over 5,000 films, videos, and digital Mediaworks by Asian & Pacific Islander artists and features seminars, panels, in-person guest appearances, and filmmaker awards. Recipient(s) of the Film Festival’s Golden Reel Award for Narrative/Animated Short Film is eligible to submit in the Animated Short Film/Live-Action Short Film category of the Academy Awards.
Founded in 2000, the San Diego Asian Film Festival is the flagship event of the Pacific Arts Movement (Pac Arts), one of the largest media arts organizations in North America that focuses on Asian and Asian American cinema. The festival is dedicated to highlighting the diversity and breadth of Asian Pacific Islander and Asian international images.