- Jaffna International Cinema Festival is back for eighth year
By Venessa Anthony
The Jaffna International Cinema Festival is back for the eighth consecutive year, and since 2015, it has had a major impact on the local cinema industry, bringing cinephiles together across borders. The eighth edition began on 30 December 2022 and will go on until 8 January. This year’s festival opened at Regal Cinemas, Cargills Square in Jaffna on Monday (2) with the screening of internationally awarded Bulletproof Children or Vedi Novadina Lamayi by Indika Ferdinando.
Vedi Novadina Lamayi was a great start to the festival, as the film had its world premiere at the 12th Bangalore International Film Festival 2020 in India, and has been officially selected for the 33rd Golden Rooster Film Awards 2020 in China. It also competed under the Best Foreign Film category. Ferdinando’s film won the award for Best Narrative Feature at the Indus Valley International Film Festival, India last year.
The Morning Brunch reached out to Jaffna International Cinema Festival Director Anoma Rajakaruna to learn more about the festival and what this edition has in store.
Rajakaruna stressed that this festival has held its own for eight consecutive years, even during the pandemic. “When the pandemic was at its peak, we still held the festival online instead of physically. It was a challenge – there was a lot of discussion with the health authorities and we managed to get approval for smaller audiences at a given time. We even had to cut down what is usually a week-long festival to many mini-programmes over a three-month duration.”
This year, due to the economic crisis, they have had to present it on a smaller scale as well, while still maintaining international standards, although nearly 25 countries are presenting films at the festival.
The awards and jury
The Jaffna International Cinema Festival has several award categories: Debut feature films (directors’ first films), with an international critic jury; the international short films competition; the Ceylon Theatres Award for the Best National Short Film, with Ceylon Theatres acting as one of the main partners that is presenting the award; and the Audience Choice Award, where audience members can vote for the most popular short film.
“This award has been awarded ever since the festival’s inception, and our plan was to expand this into the best Asian film category; but, first due to the pandemic and this year due to the economic crisis, we have had to postpone it,” Rajakaruna said. The next award is the world panorama and on occasion, the European panorama. Last but not least, the festival features the retrospective category, which focuses on various categories and countries.
This year’s festival will also feature two international juries – one for the debut films and one for the short films – composed entirely of film critics, as Rajakaruna pointed out. Additionally, they will also be hosting two master classes, one of which will be for the emerging film industry in Jaffna.
“Training young people over there is very important. Last year we had a colour-grading workshop; this year, we are continuing with a workshop on sound design, conducted by Nandanandi Jayakody, one of the leading designers in the country,” Rajakaruna added.
The next masterclass will be with Lenin M. Sivam, a filmmaker born in Jaffna, who now lives and works in Canada and has gained international recognition with his body of work. The class will be on scriptwriting for independent filmmaking, and there was none better to conduct it than M. Sivam. Rajakaruna also told us that the festival will close with one of his latest films, The Protector.
Leaving a lasting impact
Speaking on how impactful the festival has been over the years, Rajakaruna explained that since the festival was launched after a prolonged war, there are a lot of wounds to be healed.
“This festival creates common spaces where all communities can come together and start a dialogue, share feelings, thoughts, and emotions, and interact with each other,” she said, adding that it is very important to do so since it’s part of the process of healing and reconciliation.
Some of the participating countries this year include Germany, France, the US, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Italy, Spain, Malta, Brazil, Belgium, Switzerland, Ghana, Lebanon, Georgia, Sweden, the Slovak Republic, Canada, Kyrgyzstan, Iraqi Kurdistan, Poland, Tunisia, and Sri Lanka. Rajakaruna pointed out that many will visit Jaffna to watch and take part in the festival as well, which provokes interest in our country, thus contributing to tourism as well.
Overall, the festival has had quite a lasting impact on Sri Lanka and the local film industry, and Rajakaruna hopes to expand and grow the festival as the years go by, in hopes of putting Sri Lanka on the cinema map internationally.