A hugely impressive debut feature

Three stories from the Sri Lankan civil war (all with violent endings) are interwoven in Sanjeewa Pushpakumara’s coolly modernist, non-partisan debut. Best Director prize, St Petersburg.

A hugely impressive debut feature set in the north of Sri Lanka that has seen over two decades of civil war. Three parallel stories reveal the economic and – more importantly – spiritual decay within a community that struggles to hang on to a degree of normality despite the violence. A young girl falls in love with a soldier. Her father discovers them love-making and when she becomes pregnant, the shame leads to his suicide. The girl, though, chooses another way. A middle-aged widow tries to care for eight children amidst the conflict between the Army and the Tamil Tigers. Her son discovers her in a tryst with her lover, and he makes a decision that will effect the lives of them all. A young girl, threatened with forced conscription by the Tigers unless her parents pay a huge sum, decides to take alternative action herself. By showing rather than telling, and with great potency, the film reveals the physical and emotional devastation of war and the hopelessness that destroys people’s dignity, leading them to extreme actions which would not otherwise be countenanced. Nevertheless, it has a great modesty and avoids being judgemental. The beauty and tranquility of its photography only adds to the sense of the sadness of the long war it depicts.

By Helen de Witt / 55th London Film Festival

( http://www.bfi.org.uk/lff2011/films/world_cinema/1687)