Colombo Telegraph

Anomaa Rajakaruna’s Evasive Response To Demons In Paradise Removal: Still No Reasons Given To Director 

In an evasive response to be controversy over the removal of Jude Ratnam’s film ‘Demons in Paradise’ from the Jaffna film festival, Anomaa Rajakaruna, the festival director said Ratnam should have started “sincere dialogue” before going public over the matter.

The response, strangely, does not explain why the film was removed from the festival at the eleventh hour, and what led the the organizers to make their questionable decision.

“Jaffna International Cinema Festival’s application criteria is twofold. Film makers apply for competition sections and films are invited for special screenings and discussions. Jude Ratnam’s film came to the festival through a partner of the festival who has presented his film at other locations in the South. The organizing committee has explained to the partner organization about their decision which was then relayed to Ratnam. Subsequently the partner went into discussion with Ratnam about starting a dialogue about the removal and overall freedom of expression,” Rajakaruna says.

“Jude Ratnam’s film which was premiered on 24th May 2017 has been traveling to many international film festivals abroad and had many screenings in the South of
Sri Lanka. The film never had a public screening in the North of the Country particularly in the Jaffna peninsula. He was reluctant to take the film to the location where a majority of the film was shot. One wonders why? Why was he reluctant to take his film there during the last 16 months? ” she asked.

The question, however, is not the public screening of the film, but the organizers’ sudden decision to remove it from the schedule under mysterious circumstances. Rajakaruna, curiously, maintains silence over this core question.

She goes on to add, “In his statement Jude mentions that “Thus far I have not been given a proper explanation for the removal of my film DEMONS IN PARADISE from the festival schedule” which is not accurate.

Jaffna International Cinema Festival’s application criteria is twofold. Film makers apply for competition sections and films are invited for special screenings and discussions. Jude Ratnam’s film came to the festival through a partner of the festival who has presented his film at other locations in the South. The organizing committee has explained to the partner organization about their decision which was then relayed to Ratnam. Subsequently the partner went into discussion with Ratnam about starting a dialogue about the removal and overall freedom of expression.

We have kept the slot allocated for Jude Ratnam’s film on the schedule open. We would have started a discussion on the freedom of expression. It is sad that Jude Ratnam chose to walk out of the discussion to issue a press statement in the South of the country without considering our offer or the implications. If the intended discussion took place, it would have opened up a space not just for the screening of one film, but for many other screenings of other filmmakers as well, in a nation divided by identity politics.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Rajan Hoole has taken on Rajakaruna’s statement as it has fallen short of addressing the issue at hand.

“You had only been asked for a proper explanation of why the film was removed from the schedule. Instead you have resorted to innuendo against the Director Jude Ratnam implying charges that have no flesh. The issues involved are so crucial that we expect a higher standard of civic morality from you.”

“I am a resident of Jaffna who has read several commendatory reviews about the film and was happy that it was scheduled for screening here. There is an immense need for people here to be able to hear different views and be exposed other ways of seeing our history, especially the darker side that is assiduously blocked out by our politicians, media and especially the University. It is only then that they could break out of the propaganda monolith that is intent on keeping us in a kind of political stone-age.

I am not surprised that Dr. Raguram of the Department of Media studies had ‘visitors’. I immediately sensed the kind of atmosphere where concerted attempts were made in 2014 and 2015 to stop the commemoration of Dr. Rajani Thiranagama at the University and then to stop the discussion of Palmyra Fallen, my book commemorating Rajani, in the Library Auditorium of the same University, ” Hoole said.

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