By Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya
The International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), which has been held since 1972 in the Netherlands, has unveiled its 2023 line-up, including works selected for its flagship Tiger Competition. Visakesa Chandrasekaram’s Munnel is among the 16 productions eyeing the prize.
“I have received my birthday gift from the International Film Festival of Rotterdam. We are in competition. Thanks heaps to my friends who worked so hard to make Munnel,” Chandrasekaram posted on his Facebook page.
Other selections for the Tiger Competition include movies from Sweden, Germany, Iran, Lebanon, and Ukraine. The trademark competition of the IFFR celebrates the innovative and adventurous spirit of up-and-coming filmmakers from all over the world. The 2023 jury is expected to grant three prizes: The Tiger Award and two special jury awards.
The other key competition at the film festival is the Big Screen Competition, for which, movies such as Before the Buzzards Arrive by Jonás N Diaz (Mexico), Endless Borders by Abbas Amini (Czech Republic/Germany/Iran), Four Little Adults by Selma Vilhunen (Finland), and Joram by Devashish Makhija (India) have been selected.
IFFR will run from 25 January to 5 February 2023, and returns to a physical setting after being restricted to digital showcases, and select live events for the past two editions. This will be celebrated through the IFFR campaign, where the designers reimagined the IFFR Tiger in new ways and commemorated the return to live events and the opportunity to reconnect with Rotterdam.
While the film festival celebrates global cinema, having a local production selected for its prestigious Tiger Competition is definitely an honour. Munnel is written, directed, and produced by Chandrasekaram, with music by Pathmaya Sivananthan. Sivakumar Lingeswaran, Kamala Sri Mohan Kumar, and Thurkka Magendran star in the movie. While the movie will have a world premiere at the film festival, Chandrasekaram needs no introduction, as his debut film Frangipani (2013) won him several awards, including best foreign film director at the Rio LGBT Film Festival 2015.
In addition to being a filmmaker, Chandrasekaram is also a human rights lawyer, writer, academic, and artist. He has written two novels, Tigers Don’t Confess and The King and the Assassin, and directed stage plays.
He received a doctorate from the Australian National University for his research on the use of confessionary evidence under counter-terrorism laws, and currently works as a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of Colombo.
Rudran, facing trial as an ex-Tamil Tiger militant, is released on bail. He returns to his village in the North Province with his mother, an ageing soothsayer. While she spends her days in the spiritual realm, attempting to locate the whereabouts of those who have disappeared for a village community deeply bereaved, Rudran begins his own tireless search for his childhood love, Vaani.
With a cast and crew of local Tamil-speakers from the area, all direct witnesses to the civil war, Munnel is a deeply authentic reflection on the post-war consciousness of Sri Lanka’s ethnic minority. Director Visakesa Chandrasekaram explores this perspective with masterful subtlety and a meticulous, languid pacing. Rudran’s journey is composed of moments of stillness, tenderness, and contemplation, encompassing the costs of civil war and the weight of its failures on the Tamil identity in the quiet melancholy of Sivakumar Lingerswaran’s revelatory, layered performance. There are no flashbacks, and yet the past is achingly present in his physicality, his gazes and gestures that debut cinematographer Rishi Selvam frames in wide and tranquil shots, uniting characters and landscape in a wounded harmony.
“What happened over there?” Rudran’s friend asks him. Rudran remains poignantly silent, and the wind blows sorrowfully through the grasses that surround them.
Movies selected for the IFFR Tiger Competition
- Munnel – Visakesa Chandrasekraram (Sri Lanka)
- 100 årstider – Giovanni Bucchieri (Sweden)
- Gagaland – Teng Yuhan (China)
- Geology of Separation – Yosr Gasmi, Mauro Mazzocchi (Tunisia/Italy/France)
- Indivision – Leïla Kilani (Morocco/France)
- Letzter Abend – Lukas Nathrath (Germany)
- Mannvirki – Gústav Geir Bollason (Iceland/France)
- New Strains – Artemis Shaw/Prashanth Kamalakanthan (USA)
- Notas sobre un verano – Diego Llorente (Spain)
- Numb – Amir Toodehroosta (Iran)
- Nummer achittien – Guido van der Werve (Netherlands)
- La Palisiada – Philip Sotnychenko (Ukraine)
- Playland – Georden West (USA)
- Le spectre de Boko Haram – Cyrielle Raingou (Cameroon/France)
- Thiiird – Karim Kassem (Lebanon)
- three sparks – Naomi Uman (Albania/Mexico)