By Dimithri Wijesinghe
The “Pleasure of Cinema” film festival will take place at the Scope Cinemas Complex in Colombo City Centre from 4 to 8 September.
The festival will be screening five previously unscreened films by famous Sri Lankan filmmakers. The order of the screenings is as follows:
4 September: Midunu Wasanthaya (Frozen Cosmos) directed by Jayantha Chandrasiri
5 September: Kathuru Mithuru directed by Giriraj Kaushalya
6 September: Yugathra directed by Channa Perera
7 September: Miss Jenis directed by Susiran De Silva
8 September: Gindaree 3 directed by Udayakantha Warnasuriya
We spoke to all five directors with regard to their creative work that will be screened at the festival, while also discussing their thoughts on how the pandemic has affected them and their productions. All five films were made with the intention of being released in 2020, with the exception of Giriraj Kaushalya’s comedy film Kathuru Mithuru, which was first postponed as a result of last year’s Easter Sunday bombings and scheduled for release this year, but delayed yet again.
Giriraj shared with us that usually, if his film was to be screened under normal circumstances (or what we recall as normal prior to the pandemic), upon the release of the film, he could have shared a rough estimate of how long the film would be screened in cinemas, considering that some of his other films like Sikuru Hathe and Suhada Koka went on to screen for 75-100 days.
With regard to this new film, he said they hope to have its official premiere in November, adding that it would however depend on the prevailing situation in the county. He shared that as an artist having created something for the audience’s consumption, if he were to have things go his way, he would like to show his work to the public as soon as possible. “That is my wish,” he said, which is why he is quite glad that despite the delayed premiere, this special one-time screening would allow his film to be viewed as intended.
“These are difficult times. Our country’s people have gone through a lot; they have had to deal with one catastrophe after the other, and with the bombing, then the pandemic, and the heat of the election, there was much unrest. However, we can somewhat say that things have come to a relative standstill. “I can only speak for my film; this film happens to be a comedy and I think we can all do with some entertainment right now. Even the other films in this lineup – whatever genre they may be – will provide a form of escapism and relief to those of us who have been under extreme pressures for some time now,” he said.
The director of the opening film of the festival Midunu Wishwaya(Frozen Cosmos), Jayantha Chandrasiri also shared his thoughts on the effects of the pandemic in delaying the screening of his most recent film. “The film at the time of the pandemic had received its Censor Board approval and was pending its theatre release. However, it is at my great pleasure that this film got selected to be the opening show for the Sarasaviya Scope Pleasure of Cinema film festival. I am grateful that my spectators would get a chance to see this film without much delay,” he shared.
He said that the film has a great cast with the likes of Uddika Premarathna, Udari Warnakulasooriya, Chulakshi Ranathunga, Buddhika Jayaratne, Sriyantha Mendis, Kusum Renu, Damitha Abeyratne, and Wasantha Wittachchi, and the film’s production was helmed by Ruwan Jayasinghe, who also produced Jayantha’s previous film Butterfly Symphony. Jayantha shared that the thematic concern of the film is the sensitive emotion of love and the phenomenon of space and time expressed through the science of acting. “In my opinion, this might be a unique experience in consideration of not only Sri Lankan cinema, but also international cinema. As for the genre of the film, it is rather music-oriented storytelling,” he added.
Channa Perera’s film Yugathra is third in the lineup for the Pleasure of Cinema film festival. While the film has not been officially released, it did have a limited screening in Australia, and Channa said that it was largely well received by the varied audience it was screened to – they featured not only Sri Lankans but also a number of Australians, Indians, and others. He said that it was encouraging to see how Sri Lankan cinema, despite its limitations on budget and technology, is still going head to head with works that have a much larger investment than theirs on the world stage.
About being a part of the film festival, Channa shared that while he hopes to premiere the film possibly in January next year, he said that word of mouth is the best possible marketing anyone can ask for, noting that being part of a film festival and allowing for a special screening, therefore, can only be a good thing for the future success of his work.
Susiran De Silva is the only fresher in the list of directors featured at the film festival. He shared that his film Miss Jenis might be special for many as it is one of the final performances by the great Jayalath Manoratne who passed away in January this year. The film is a family film created to be enjoyed by the whole family, explained Susiran. He shared that if you are a fan of Manoratne, then this is a must-see as he gives a most unique performance in the role of a woman as Miss Jenis, a role that was dear to his
Susiran said that it is an honour to be featured amongst some of the industry greats in this lineup, adding that as a newcomer, it is a fantastic opportunity for him. Miss Jeni was in the top 10 of 18 films shortlisted by the National Film Corporation for main releases out of a backlog of nearly 100 films. Susiran said that as a newcomer, this really gave him an edge as otherwise, getting a main release as a novice would have been next to impossible. He also said that he is most grateful to his producer Walter
Abeysundara for believing in his vision for the film.
He shared that this film was actually set to release during the first few weeks the pandemic hit, with them having begun to run trailers as well as including lobby cut-outs in cinemas in their distribution film circuit. However, then Covid-19 happened and everything was brought to a halt. Therefore, he believes that giving the film an opportunity to be viewed by a wider audience can
only mean good things for his work.
Gindaree 3 Director Udayakantha Warnasuriya shared that he is still uncertain about when he would premiere his movie. However, this special screening he believes will function as a catalyst in encouraging cinemagoers to actually begin to frequent cinema halls in the new normal.
He said that while things are not 100% safe and there is no “post-pandemic situation” just yet, in this new normal, we must adapt and learn to carry on with our everyday lives while being precautious. He shared that at present, there is a lot of uncertainty and fear in people’s minds about going to public places – and rightfully so. Nevertheless, he believes that having festivals like this will show people that if things are done in a controlled environment while properly adhering to the precautions in place, then
there is no need to deny yourself the simple pleasures of life, as long as you are being careful. Udayakantha said he is hopeful that this festival might be a step in the right direction with regard to the revival of the cinema industry in the island.
The Pleasure of Cinema film festival is Scope Cinemas’ initiative in an attempt to provide “collective human pleasure” to our communities, considering the “unrest and unpleasantness” that’s unfolded as a result of the pandemic. Scope shared that they as an organisation are dedicated to the betterment and progression of the Sri Lankan entertainment industry and so chose to facilitate this event for fans of cinema in the form of a film festival. The films that will be screened are those that Scope Cinemas believes are likely to become fan favourites upon their eventual release.
The festival would be unique in that it will utilise cutting-edge technology in the cinema experience, with Scope’s Dolby Atmos viewing experience, while also providing cinema enthusiasts a valuable opportunity to interact with their favourite filmmakers and actors as the event will bring together behind-the-scenes collaborators, directors, and actors of the films, providing a great opportunity for Lankan cinephiles to interact with them to learn something valuable as well as have an enjoyable day.