Vimukthi Jayasundara’s Mushrooms (Chatrak) and Sanjeewa Pushpakumara’s Flying Fish (Igillena maluwo). Both these films, one enigmatic and the other angry, use boldly non-realist strategies to provide insiders’ accounts of deeply divided and unequal societies coming to terms with the modern world. Mushrooms, Jayasundara’s third feature, which premiered in this year’s Cannes Directors’ Fortnight (his first, The Forsaken Land (Sulanga Enu Pinisa), won the festival’s Camera d’Or in 2005), resorts to outright allegory as a successful architect looks out over the sprawling city he is building while his brother lives a mute, inglorious life in the forest, unable or unwilling to cope with the ambition that drive his brother.
For all its striking imagery, Mushrooms seems too schematic, but Flying Fish offers an extraordinary journey to the heart of Sri Lankan darkness with no less vivid, sensual images. Set during the 25-year civil war that convulsed Sri Lanka, Pushpakumara’s remarkable debut draws on his own experience growing up in a remote village, where ordinary lives were degraded by the struggle between Tamil Tigers and government forces (shown as equally brutal). Recurrent close-up images of exotic insects and landscapes of startling beauty intersperse scenes of sexual exploitation, making this a far from comfortable films to watch. But there’s no denying its impassioned originality. We gave it the Blue Chameleon jury prize, and there’s a chance to see for yourself in the London Film Festival.
By Ian Christie / Sight & Sound / August 2011