Series on Contemporary Sri Lankan Cinema Features Films That Explore Once-Taboo Topics

A renowned filmmaker and educator will showcase the work of his countrymen in “Contemporary Sri Lankan Cinema at Yale,” a film and discussion series that will take place the first two weeks in April.

Independent filmmaker Robert Crusz is the guest host of the series, which is sponsored by the Women, Religion and Globalization Project; the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program; the Institute of Sacred Music; South Asian Studies; and the Film Studies Program.

“While the defining characteristic of Sri Lanka over the past 25 years has been the crisis of its bitter ethnic/civil war, its cinema is defined by its predominant concern with the socio-cultural milieu of the ruling majority Sinhala-Buddhist community, who constitute nearly 75% of the island nation’s people,” note the series organizers. “The younger generation of serious Sinhala filmmakers is now starting to come to grips with the country’s civil war and ethnic crisis, but it also continues to deal with the inner workings of that community.

“New work,” add the organizers, “shows a courageous interest and critical vitality in hitherto taboo areas such as the ones dealt with in these four films: the contradictions of globalized culture, the frailties of Buddhist priests and nuns, extra-marital sex, dysfunctional families, single parenthood, abortion, HIV/AIDS and homosexuality.”

The four films in the series will be shown 4-6:30 p.m. at 212 York St. The screenings are all free and open to the public.

The featured films are: Thursday, April 2 -“Uppalawanna (The Buddhist Nun),” which looks at the life of the “Bikkhunis” or Buddhist female monks; Tuesday,

April 7 — “Pawuru Wallalu (Walls Within),” which tackles the topic of extra-marital sex; Thursday, April 9 — “Sankara (Introspection),” which focuses on a Buddhist monk’s struggle with his own sensuality; and Tuesday, April 14 — “Akasa Kusum (Flowers of the Sky),” which is about an aging film star and her dysfunctional family.

Each feature-length film will be preceded by a short film by a student of the Tulana Media Unit in Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, a media production training and research facility which takes a special interest in educating vernacular-speaking, semi-urban and rural young adults, particularly young women, in the art, craft and theories of film, video and radio.

Following the screening on April 14, Crusz will join with a panel of film and South Asian scholars for a discussion of Sri Lankan cinema. Crusz is founder and coordinator of the Tulana Media Unit, which produced his film “The Census”; a founding member of the renowned Sankofa Film & Video Workshop in the United Kingdom, which produced his film “In Between”; and editor of Cinesith, the international film journal from Sri Lanka.

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