- Director of Best Film winner ‘Ekthara Adara Kathawak’
The 10th edition of the Agenda 14 Short Film Festival held from 20 to 22 December announced its winners via live stream, celebrating the achievements of 24 shortlisted candidates.
Amidst the incredible submissions, arguably the biggest winner of the night was Yasodhara Kariyawasam’s Ekthara Adara Kathawak. The film went on to win two Best Performance awards, the Best Editing award, the Best Script award, and the coveted prize of the night, the Best Film award.
We spoke to the director about having won her first-ever award of this nature and briefly about the origins of the up-and-coming hotshot female director who wishes only to grow in strength as she pursues her passion.
Speaking to Yashodara about Agenda 14 and her film pretty much wiping out the competition at the festival, she shared that in a previous year too, she submitted a script but did not get shortlisted. This time around, she had submitted her films The Kahata and Ekthara Adara Kathawak, and in an incredibly fortunate turn of events, Ekthara Adara Kathawak had managed to impress the jury enough that it was given due recognition.
Yahosdara said she really had no idea about the win; even when she came in for the recording of the award ceremony, she had no clue all the way up until she was called in for her recording. “That’s why I was really nervous during my speech. I wasn’t prepared,” she said. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the nominees were called in one at a time to receive their awards and the rest of the participants were largely kept in the dark as to what awards they have been given.
She said it was a great honour to have been given such recognition, especially considering her fellow nominees who have all submitted incredibly thought-provoking short films, all of which are well deserving of their spot on the list, and she is humbled all the more for it. She said that considering this is only her second film, there’s really nowhere to go but up and she shared that this has definitely given her a confidence boost in pursuing further her passion.
Yahodara shared with us a sneak peek into the filming process of Ekthara Adara Kathawak, noting that what should’ve ideally been a four-day shoot they had to be limited to just two days due to budgetary restrictions, considering she and her Co-Scriptwriter Deepthi Jayasinghe quite literally put together the entirety of their salaries to produce the film.
She stressed on the fact that filmmakers often do not make films for anything other than their passion – to manifest the stories begging to be told inside their heads – and so she is quite certain that even as she continues to grow, she would stay true to her artistic integrity and not ever compromise on her vision, even if this means she would have to save for a year and self-fund her projects.
The origins of the director
Yashodara shared that film has been her solace; her “safe haven”; a cynophile for the longest time. She shared that her interest in film started with her fascination with anime and more specifically Hayao Miyazaki’s creations, adding that she was truly inspired by his careful attention to detail and how he was able to adapt very adult emotions to children in an effective way.
She said that originally she got into photography as a medium of artistic expression, and the skills acquired as a photographer have stayed with her, as evidenced through her fascination and interest with the cinematography aspect of her films and how important it is to her that her films look and feel a certain way.
Yashodara shared that her eventual foray into filmmaking really came after a culmination of a series of unfortunate events – from a time where she was doing entirely too much, working at the World Health Organisation (WHO), while pursuing her education both in law and international relations. She said that this time proved to be an extremely difficult time where she was depressed to the extent she had difficulty getting out of bed. During this time, however, she had decided that enough is enough and had chosen to take a gap year.
During this time, she said she woke up one day and decided to make a film. “I called up all of my attractive friends and made a really bad fashion film.” This had then led to her official first step into creating film and storytelling via the visual medium. Following her very first rudimentary attempt, Yahosdara went on to direct for the Colombo Fashion Week (CFW) Film Festival two years in a row, taking part and getting selected as one of the top five films submitted.
She shared with us that looking back, she believes everything she had done in her life has helped her to pursue her passion in filmmaking, from the time in grade eight when she and several of her classmates directed and put on a Shakespearean play with absolutely no guidance and took their production to the provincial level, to the time the production she put together with her students at the Institute of English Maharagama for three consecutive years, to her stint as the Digital Editor of Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka – all had culminated in her venturing into filmmaking, she said.
About Ekthara Adara Kathawak – beware of spoilers
The film’s marketing aspect may have misled you because this film is not by any means for the faint of heart. Speaking about the complex subject matter taken on by the film, Yahosdara shared that what they absolutely did not want to do was to make something that was conceptually black and white. Her goal had been to create something that was brimming with morally ambiguous people – to tell the story of realistic characters. She said what wished to do was to create a film that would make the audience think – to make them feel intensely and have her work impact their life in some way.
In making things as realistic as possible, she said that “reading the comments, it looked like everyone was quite traumatised”, sounding rather satisfied with how gravely it has affected the viewers, which had been her original intention.
The film portrays a number of intensive topics, coming with a trigger warning; it discusses the topic of marital rape, elements of abuse, addressing harmful social constructs, and the effects of a lacking education system, the affects of which could have troubling repercussions for years to come.
Yashodara said that when writing the script, she wrote and rewrote it multiple times to capture the accurate sense of realism she has portrayed in the film. She said the topic of marital rape was something she wished to depict because it is still not illegal in Sri Lanka, and she believes that a lot of the domestic abuse which takes place in households and much of the abuse that both women and men go through result from the seriously lacking educational system we have in place in Sri Lanka.
She said that in schools, boys are taught to be “macho” – to hide their emotions as a definition of being masculine – and girls are taught to be “submissive” – to be careful with what to wear and what not to wear. She said that these teachings are “blatantly wrong” and disrupt the fundamental truths of life, that human beings are spiritually the balance of both masculine and feminine energy. She said that she hopes that one day we are able to address these issues and come up with a feasible solution, and until then, she hopes to contribute to the conversation.
- Director – Yasodhara Kariyawasam
- Screenplay – Yasodhara Kariyawasam, Deepthi Jayasinghe
- Cinematographer – Satheesh Rathnaraja
- Editor – Satheesh Rathnaraja
- Assistant Director – Diyanath Marasinghe
- Production Manager – Deepthi Jayasinghe
- Lyrics – Christina Britto (English), Yasodhara Kariyawasam (Sinhala)
- Music and vocals – Shivantha Fernando
- Rohan – Ashan Dias
- Uma – Christina Britto
- Varuna – Hashen Ratnayake
- Muaad Razick
- Ryan Wickremasinghe
- Nethmi Jayasekara