- Vimukthi Jayasundara on Berlinale and Sri Lankan film
By Ravini Perera
Sri Lankan filmmaker Kala Keerthi Vimukthi Jayasundara has been named to the official jury of the 72nd Berlin International Film Festival, held from 10 to 20 February. Berlinale or the Berlin International Film Festival, held annually in Berlin, Germany, is one of the world’s leading film festivals and most reputable media events.
Berlinale, over the years, has become a prestigious event and is renowned for the platform it has created. It has guided many new talents to stardom while also supporting the careers of other stakeholders of the movie world. Many film industry professionals, including filmmakers and producers, view the Berlin Film Fest to be a source of empowerment for those with plans, projects, dreams, and visions.
Jayasundara is the first Sri Lankan to have been appointed to the jury of this glamorous event, and joins Italian film expert and artistic director Gaia Furrer and Afghan filmmaker Shahrbanoo Sadat in a panel to choose this year’s best directorial debut. This is his 17th appointment to an international jury, which is the most for any Sri Lankan film director. Brunch spoke to Jayasundara on his appointment as a jury member to the Berlinale, his journey as a filmmaker and more.
Becoming Vimukthi Jayasundara
In the early 2000s, Jayasundara joined a multinational advertising agency in Colombo as a creative writer. The art of filmmaking fascinated Jayasundara, and having spent time in the industry, he realised his true potential and how to embrace his inborn talent, and decided to pursue his higher education in the discipline of film.
“As a young man, I wanted to expand my knowledge on cinema and the process of filmmaking. I believed that the West was where I needed to go, to learn this art,” he said. His dream of studying filmmaking overseas was fulfilled and he travelled to countries such as India and France for his education. His exceptional talent and creativity catapulted Jayasundara to be a frontrunner in the industry. In 2005, he received the Caméra d’Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival for Best Debut Director. This recognition validated his suitability for the film industry and directed him to achieve great heights.
Today, Jayasundara’s work and achievements continue to inspire many from across the world. His unique approach and artistic flair have produced multiple masterpieces admired by fans both local and global, including the international filmmaking fraternity. Over the years, Jayasundara has been appointed to the juries of multiple film festivals and international award ceremonies including the Berlinale and the International Film Festival of India, giving Jayasundara the opportunity to add value to the global film industry while bringing glory to Sri Lanka.
“It is a privilege and an honour to be a part of this incredible event as a juror,” Jayasundara said of his appointment to this year’s Berlinale. “This is one of the best platforms for movies, alongside many talented individuals, to be recognised and admired. This privilege is the result of many years of hard work and determination. Hence, I believe that not only has this validated my past efforts but also opened the doors to incalculable future opportunities.”
Sri Lanka and the global film industry
Jayasundara’s journey to becoming a successful film director has been filled with many trials and tribulations. However, by defying all odds and winning the world over with his talents, he has brought Sri Lanka to the limelight.
As a country renowned for its beauty, culture, and humanity, Sri Lankan cinematic creations have long attracted the attention of the global film community. However, as per Jayasundara, Sri Lankans need to be more accepting of the present age to truly shine. “Sri Lanka is a glorious country and a pioneer in Asia. We have accomplished so much in the past, a past we all embrace with pride. Nevertheless, we need to move on from this history and evolve with the rest of the world,” he explained.
Sri Lanka has produced legends like Dr. Lester James Peiris, popularly known as the father of Sri Lankan cinema. His death has left a void in the world of cinema and Jayasundara stressed that young, local talent must be sought and empowered to follow in the footsteps of such legends.
“The younger generation of the country can contribute more towards this industry. The lack of hunger in the youngsters to try their hands at creating masterpieces is alarming. The way we think can and will shape the future of the country. Creative solutions are the best answer for any problem.”
The ongoing economic crisis has had the eyes of the global population glued on Sri Lanka. Nonetheless, Jayasundara does not encourage the energy of all to be constantly focused on such matters. He believes that even such problems can be solved with creative thinking. “Bangladesh is the best example. Regardless of their circumstances, their cinematic work has evolved astonishingly. Similarly, we must not stop evolving in these disciplines owing to various ongoing problems, but simply keep going and utilise our thinking power to the fullest.”
Jayasundara invites everyone to celebrate culture through cinema and not focus all attention on one aspect of the society. “Art and culture should be free from being politicised. They should be loved and enjoyed by all.”
The director’s cut: Making a great film
Jayasundara explained that sensibility is a key factor in the success of any cinematic production and one needs to be sensible in communicating with one’s audience. “Read, understand and provoke your creativity,” he encouraged. “These are the ingredients of a recipe for success. Images we use for the film or any cinematic production alike, will be the fundamental means by which we communicate with the viewers. Unlike in the past, everything is based on good, creative, and unique imagery. Therefore, let your imagination flow and guide you in your creations.”
Jayasundara’s wish is to see Sri Lanka’s incredible art, culture, and talent being recognised and developed even further. “We are merely scratching the surface here. There is so much more talent lurking underneath that needs to be discovered,” he said, stressing the need for more investment in the fields of art and culture while cautioning creatives not to focus purely on profit: “We must not simply be motivated by profit alone, but be armed with the desire to help these talented individuals. People must be willing to invest in creative projects.”
Many admirers from the world of cinema, including aspiring filmmakers, look up to Jayasundara, dreaming of accomplishing similar goals in the long run. Jayasundara encourages such novices to not be fooled by the outlook and the glamour that cinema entails but also to be keen on learning about the subject in depth.
“Events such as the Berlinale are glamorous and extraordinary, but only a few individuals are fully aware of details of the event at hand. One must depict keenness to study such events, especially those considering a career in the movie industry.” He further explained: “Being nominated for an award and winning an award is not all that takes place in this industry. The world of cinema is a platform bigger than what one may possibly imagine, and you must have the energy to keep up with all the activities taking place in this industry.”
Possessing a camera and well-curated social media accounts are the ideal tools any novice may require to demonstrate their skills to the world. However, one must not stop with the success and fame such platforms yield but continue to improve on their knowledge, in order to prevail in the industry.
Opportunity is golden
Being born a small islander does not necessarily hinder our opportunities of becoming a global phenomenon, although people may believe so. The only factor that may hold back a person is his imagination. Thus, it is a matter of working hard to become successful and working even harder to retain the success earned.
“Although we live on an island, we have not been isolated from the rest of the world. There are no boundaries in the field of art. Be creative and practical and never stop learning new things,” he said.
Jayasundara is currently working on numerous new projects and movies which will be released in due course. International collaborations, an ideal means by which talent and knowledge can be shared amongst individuals of various countries, are also among the many projects undertaken by Jayasundara at present. This will generate new opportunities for the locals to reach out to the world and exchange skills with others.
He also voiced his thoughts on expanding the academic opportunities being afforded to young individuals in the field of cinema. Hence, he plans on establishing an art school for students eager to learn about cinema and more. This will undoubtedly fill the gap of the existing insufficiency of awareness and education for new talents, while also allowing students to learn from industry heavyweights, including Jayasundara himself.