19 December, 2018

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A Grave Mistake By The Jaffna International Cinema Festival

By Purujoththaman Thangamayl

Purujoththaman Thangamayl

The Jaffna International Cinema Festival (JICF) begins today. The festival is taking place for the 4th consecutive year and many prestigious local and international films are being screened. Local short- film directors are also provided opportunities to showcase their talent. But this year, even before the festival kicked off, it caused quite a stir due to the Festival Committee being accused of threatening Freedom of Expression. This accusation is made by Jude Ratnam, director of the controversial film ‘Demons in Paradise’. 

Notification had been made that ‘Demons in Paradise’ would be screened on October 5th. But, on Monday the notification had been retracted, and it is this which led to Jude Ratnam’s accusation that his Freedom of Expression was being threatened. 

Ever since the inauguration of the JICF in 2015, it has caused controversy especially about the period in which the festival was being held.  In Tamil dominated areas Thiyagi Thileepan’s memorial events are observed from 15th to 26th September. There were accusations against the JICF that it was attempting to blackout Thileepan and his struggle by holding the festival during the same period. But, putting an end to such criticism the festival was shifted to October this time around and this decision was praised widely. 

Jude Ratnam’s criticism this time cannot be only taken as about the JICF committee alone and that is what necessitates this write up. This is because it fundamentally raises questions about activities and practices of the Tamil community.   

‘Demons in Paradise’ self- identifies as speaking about the internecine killings between Tamil militant groups. Even though the characters in the film speak about internecine killings the director narrates the film through his personal experiences and imposes his own political expectations upon the entire community. Further, he is willing to go to any length to justify it (Especially even going to the extent of justifying the mass killing of Tamil people during the final phase of the war). He has stated this view repeatedly not only in the film but also in conversations about the film and in interviews. He has accused the Tamil community of being averse to internal reflection and behaving childishly being devoid of any capability to accept criticism. 

In such a context apparently on the face of pressure by an unnamed group of people the screening of the film has been cancelled by the JICF. This ‘seems to’ validate Jude Ratnam’s criticism about the Tamil community. 

This writer watched ‘Demons in Paradise’ at a closed door screening in Colombo and immediately wrote his critical view of the film in ‘Demons In Paradise’: An Irreparable Miscarriage. But, this writer does not support any threats against creative freedom or the right to publish. In fact, this film should be shown to the Tamil community and there should be honest questions raised about the one sided politics of the film. That is what would displace the demeaning nature of opinions expressed by outsiders (non- Tamils) and their supporters about the Tamil community. What has happened instead?

The Director of the JICF is Anoma Rajakaruna. The Chair of the Festival is Dr. Raghuram. Members of the Festival Committee include academics like Dr. Cheran Rudhramoorthy and Dr. Sumathy Sivamohan and others. They are the ones who take the final decision about the films to be screened at the Festival. In such a context, every film should have been watched personally and their virtue and standard discussed before selection is made for screening. There should be courage to face the films’ political and social nature and the support and objections such films would raise. This is fundamental for constructive thinking.  

The whole concept of Literary Festivals and Film Festivals is to take society forward in a progressive manner. In a post- war society there is greater need to move forward and such conversations should be held in a perfect manner and arise both democratically and ideologically. Academics and intellectuals within the Tamil community need to contribute at every level of such movements and not give up or refrain when slight pressure is used. This actually pulls back the Tamil community. Academics who desire to be intellectuals need to face the society, educate them, and move towards progress through their thinking. It is nonsensical to back out in the face of the slightest pressure. That is what has happened here. 

There are also messages to be delivered to those who for the sole objective of identifying themselves as Tamil Nationalists engage in such childish behaviour. This arises out of the responsibility of reiterating the need to move forward by properly understanding why Tamil Nationalism came into being and the importance of its continued existence. Those who continue to create the impression that Tamil National Politics arose out of sentimentalism and is reactionary, abandon the real and legitimate political aspirations of the Tamils. Disallowing the release of books which contain alternate views or the screening of films and thereby giving legitimacy and recognition to those expressing half-baked opinions is not what a knowledgeable society would do. But, when some parts of the community continue to engage in such acts, the end result is that the entire gamut of Tamil activity and practice is tainted by that brush.

‘Demons in Paradise’ should have been screened at the JCIF and there should have been proper critique of the film. Questions should have been asked about the reasons why it has been celebrated widely in the South. But such an opportunity has been lost by the JICF Committee, which also consists reputable academics, by giving in to pressure by some small groups. This has resulted in mudslinging on Tamil activities and practices.  Societal progress is only possible when any issue is faced directly and successfully dealt with. Refraining or running away never brings permanent success, only success for a few days. What has happened now has fulfilled the expectation of small groups maybe,  but it will not go beyond those groups. Instead it will give credence to Jude Ratnam’s comments in the international arena about Tamil activities and practices. This will create more demeaning opinions about the Tamil people.  This does not bode well for a community still struggling for our rights. 

*The writer is an independent Journalist and Columnist. This is a translation of the original in Tamil which appeared in today’s (03/10/2018) Tamil Mirror.

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Latest comments

  • 5
    0

    I agree with the writer view. I am happy that at-least this article would demonstrate that Tamils are not a tribal community and there are diverse thinking among them.

    • 0
      4

      Read his review on the movie. It will certainly negate your point.

  • 5
    3

    Purujoththaman Thangamayl (PT) calls the cancellation of the film ‘Demons in Paradise’ at the 2018 Jaffna International Cinema Festival (JICF) “A Grave Mistake”.
    Much graver mistakes are made by GoSL and by Opposition literally every second. How did the crisis of rupee depreciation happen?
    The cancellation maybe a mistake, maybe not, or a precautionary ‘end justifies the means thingy’.
    The film as PT puts it, is about “ ….. internecine killings between Tamil militant groups……….”.
    The jury is out there deciding whether they were Liberation groups and what led to militancy. Why is the police force near mono-ethnic (In SL ethnicity is language based!).
    The infamous war is over but the ‘victor’ syndrome has set in. It is well known that the police are rather hard on protestors.
    In this context the JICF probably wishes to avoid ugly scenes. Surely Jude Ratnam could wait till the ‘victor’ syndrome abates. Yes, it might be a long time.
    PT: The cancellation does not make us uncultured..

  • 3
    2

    A most healthy comment on an unfortunate decision.

  • 10
    0

    If this film was made by a Vellayan or a Sinhalavan, there wouldn’t be all this fuss. Because the filmmaker is a Tamil, its screening is challenged. There is nothing the Jaffna society fears more than introspection and self-criticism.

  • 3
    2

    Not a single Tamil movie has been made in Sri Lanka. As a Tamil I am ashamed

  • 2
    5

    Purujoththaman Thangamayl is wrong. This film secretly hails LTTE and tamil division of mother lanka. This is what an insider told me.

  • 4
    12

    Are Tamils human?

    • 3
      1

      I am not sure. But I am sure Sinaloa state Is a fevi. Not human

    • 1
      0

      Chris Christhombu

      “Are Tamils human?”

      I have no idea, however I guess unlike the Sinhala/Buddhist fascists they are not the chosen people of this island, world, galaxy, milky way, …

  • 3
    8

    Tamil arrogance, Tamil Stupidy and Tamil superiority over the Sinhale owner Sinhala people are obvious. One comment says this film is not by either sinhala or by a high caste Tamil. In other words, Purujoththam and even THANGAMAY should be assigned identity and not the true name. irst this kinf of Stupid tamils must understand, when there was a 30 year war agaisnt the govt during which Tamils killed mostly Tamils, another movie with political views should not be allowed. Every body knows Yapanaya has so many mental weirods, there is animosity towards LTTE most of whom are not socially privilages and AAVa is another, they say it is rooted in India, and some indonesian/Malaysian Tamis are eyeing on it. So, the film shold be restriceted or simply out right banned as Tamils always try to destroy Tamils. Remember another war will remove you out of the country. Don’t be stupid.

  • 3
    3

    Chris

    No

    • 0
      1

      C & LV
      Is either of you?

  • 2
    5

    Thanks Luke, I got the answer from you

  • 3
    0

    Jude Ratnam’s film is a textbook example of how ontological insecurity manifests itself. The Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing identified three types of insecurity: Engulfment, Implosion and Petrification. In the last type, the individual is pushed to become compliant. This is the very reason why Jude Rutnam will never raise a finger against the Sri Lankan Army. R.D. Laing captured this very well when he said, “Madness need not be all breakdown. It may also be break-through. It is potential liberation and renewal as well as enslavement and existential death.”

  • 1
    4

    My dear SJ

    We both (Luke Visidagama and me) are good Sinhala Buddhists, thus human

    • 2
      0

      Dear Chris
      One’s religious/ethnic identity does not make one better than another.
      (I remember and like very much what the Buddha said about one’s being a Brahmin.)

  • 0
    0

    SJ

    This is a questionaire whether a group is human or not human. It has nothing to do with religion because to practice a religion one needs to be human first.

    • 0
      0

      JV
      My response was to a certain claim that their identity (SB) made them human while denouncing others as not human.
      No religion can make a bad person good.

  • 2
    2

    SJ
    They are trying to say we Tamils are not human?

    It is a type of coloquialism.

    it is our actions that has enabled the world to form this opinion. It’s not just Prabhakaran, it is Chelva, Amirthalingama, Thondaman, Tamil Chelvam.The list goes on. Time for us to reflect on ourselves.

    • 1
      0

      CV
      I am not claiming greatness or goodness of any identity.
      It is not good to label any community as not human etc.
      That was all I tried to say.
      True that I was a little sarky but that has to be understood in context.

  • 2
    2

    Surely as Tamils we can’t be proud of ourselves. Look at the carnege we did to this country. How many innocent Sinhalese we Tamils killed?

  • 2
    2

    Chris Christhombu spot on in asking this valuable question

  • 0
    2

    Chris Christombu raised a valid point. Chitran , lots of Tamils are not human but inhuman.

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