Young Sumudu Malalagama in Open Doors Lab which promotes producers   One of Sri Lanka’s young renowned directors Sanjeewa Pushpakumara’s latest film project ‘Amma’ has been selected as one of the eight projects in the Open Doors section at the Prestigious Locarno Film Festival, in Switzerland. Open Doors is the Locarno Festival sidebar that operates [...]


Locarno Opens Doors for South Asia once again

Sri Lanka’s Sanjeewa selected for Locarno’s Open Doors Hub

Young Sumudu Malalagama in Open Doors Lab which promotes producers  

One of Sri Lanka’s young renowned directors Sanjeewa Pushpakumara’s latest film project ‘Amma’ has been selected as one of the eight projects in the Open Doors section at the Prestigious Locarno Film Festival, in Switzerland.

Malani Fonseka in a working still of Sanjeewa Pushpakumara’s latest film project ‘Amma’ (Mother). Pic by Dananjaya Ratnayake

Open Doors is the Locarno Festival sidebar that operates under the Locarno Pro umbrella, promoting and enhancing the global reach of independent filmmaking from the South and East of the world. This year Open Doors concludes its three-year focus on the film industries of Southern Asia, selecting eight film projects in addition to presenting nine producers from the region. The eight selected filmmakers include internationally established directors such as Afghan director and Golden Globe winner Siddiq Barmak and the Nepalese Min Bahadur Bham, whose The Black Hen was selected for Venice in 2015.

“To be selected to the Open Doors itself is a great achievement and I am really glad about it,” said Sanjeewa Pushpakumara speaking to the TV Times of the Sunday Times. “More than anything to to be able to get opinion from international experts on your film project and get guidance and feedback is a great encouragement for any young filmmaker,” he added. He said additionally there are opportunities to meet potential investors and producers for international collaborations.

In a statement issued by the Locarno Festival stated, “the eight projects selected for the 2018 Open Doors Hub co-production platform highlight the diversity of cinema in Southern Asia,”.

The others include internationally known participant Afghan director Siddiq Barmak, winner of a Golden Globe for best foreign-language film with Osama in 2004, Sanjeewa Pushpakumara, already a competition entrant at Rotterdam, including with his recent film Burning Birds (2017), the Nepalese Min Bahadur Bham, selected for the Critics’ Week at Venice in 2015 with The Black Hen, Pakistan’s Iram Parveen Bilal, who gained international recognition for her film Josh (2014), and lastly Myanmar director The Maw Naing, whose debut feature The Monk (2014) has appeared at various festivals, including Karlovy Vary. “Alongside these established auteurs, the Hub will host emerging younger talents such as the Pakistani Saim Sadiq, presenting his project Rose, produced by well-known director and producer Sabiha Sumar (Golden Leopard in 2003 for Silent Waters).

Sanjeewa presents ‘Amma’ (Mother)

Sanjeewa’s presentation set in post war Sri Lanka. Thirty years of civil war have come to an end. Kala, a fifty-seven-years-old widow, an English Literature teacher at the university, is a Tamil who lives in Jaffna with her daughter and grandson. Her son, Rajan was abducted by an unknown group at the last stages of the war. Kala is on a relentless local campaign to find her son with several dozen other mothers in the same situation. She believes that Rajan was abducted by government forces. Kala receives an invitation from her old university friend Malini, a fifty-seven-years-old Sinhala lawyer, to join her in Colombo.

Sophie Bourdon, Head of Open Doors

Locarno Festival Artistic Director Carlo Chatrian

Making a note on his newest film project Sanjeewa states, “While peace is fragile, vulnerable war weary communities and individuals will not be able to withstand a recurrence of war. Making this film will provide a way for my own redemption from the trauma of a lifetime. The narrative of the film suggests optimism through cultivating love and trust between victims on both sides,”.

Sanjeewa who grew up spending most of his time in a war ravaged hamlet in the North-East says “Amma is a reflection of memories of my generation told through the lives of two women who embark upon an odyssey for truth and justice. The film explores and poses questions about love, betrayal, brutality, sacrifice, human dignity, freedom, democracy and life. As a filmmaker I strongly believe the story has universal relevance with contemporary social realities around the globe. Empathy I feel with the stories of victims of current global crisis has prompted,”.

Hailing the achievement of three year project which the Festival focused on in South Asian cinema, Locarno Festival Artistic Director Carlo Chatrian noted in the festival website, “Over this three-year period, Open Doors has created a platform for a generation of directors and producers to raise their visibility and establish contacts with production models elsewhere. The programme focused on a geographical region that is rich in culture but is poorly represented at international events and has offered moviegoers and industry attendees at Locarno an opportunity to hear new voices in world cinema.,”

Sumudu enters at Open Door Lab

Young Sri Lankan film producer Sumudu Malalagama is among the nine partipants selected from producers and producer-directors active in Southern Asia for the this year in the training platform Open Doors Lab at Locarno.

“One outstanding participant is Sri Lankan Sumudu Malalagama, who has made a massive contribution towards encouraging young local directors and allowing new filmmaking voices to be heard,” the festival organizers in its announcement noted.

“Intensifying support for training producers in these regions fosters the growth of independent filmmaking. The numerous applications from women filmmakers we received this year are a highly positive signal of exactly that process at work. Our objective is to show that in these regions, too, there are hidden talents blazing a trail for a new generation of directors who want to break free from the clichés and media stereotypes and bring a fresh view of their respective countries to the international stage. Their gaze is a living witness to the incredible energy and creativity in these areas and to their personal commitment to playing a part in the rebirth of their countries,” commented Sophie Bourdon, Head of Open Doors and Deputy Head of Locarno Pro.

Sumudu Malalagama

Sanjeewa Pushpakumara

Lastly, the sidebar also features the Open Doors Screenings, which will showcase for the Festival public a representative selection of short and full-length films from Southern Asia. The full program will be announced in July.

The Open Doors jury will award several prizes for selected projects from the Open Doors Hub. The Open Doors Grant worth 50,000 Swiss francs is financed by the Swiss production support fund Visions Sud Est (also backed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC) together with the City of Bellinzona. France’s national film and animation centre CNC will offer a prize worth 8,000 euros, while ARTE France will fund a prize worth 6,000 euros.

During the Locarno Festival, the projects will be presented to potential European and international partners as part of the Locarno Proprogramme, which runs from August 1 to 7 and the 71st Locarno Festival will take place from August 1- 11.

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