Making movies with what one saw with one’s own eyes and the first hand experiences one underwent is the key to the success of young and talented filmmaker Sanjeewa Pushpakumara’s filmmaking.
Having created a number of short films, his debut feature ‘Igillena Maluwo’ (Flying Fish) revolves around three parallel stories dealing with the attempts of three ordinary villagers to lead a normal life in a war ravaged backdrop.
This film is competing in the Director’s Debut Feature Film Section for the ‘Tiger Award’ at the International Film Festival of Rotterdam (IFFR), in the Netherlands which started this week.
Representing Sri Lanka, Sanjeewa is competing with 13 other countries including Mexico, South Korea, Spain, Greece, Colombia, Thailand, Japan, Brazil, , Germany, Austria, Iran, Russia and India in the festival held from January 26 to February 6.
Celebrating the 40th anniversary, the IFFR is now one of the world’s biggest film festivals for newcomers after Cannes, Berlin, Venice and Locarno.
Sanjeewa’s film has impressed the film lovers in Rotterdam, a week ago, two out of four theatres in the festival scheduled to be screened ‘Flying Fish’, tickets were sold out. ‘Flyng Fish’ is also another Sri Lankan film finished with the financial support of the Hubert Bals Fund of IFFR, which had earlier supported a few young Sri Lankan filmmakers.
The daring debut of Sanjeewa deals with economic and even greater spiritual decay as the result of a civil war lasting more than two decades. It tells the individual stories, a beautiful village girl falls in love with a soldier, a middle-aged widow takes care of her eight children in a village filled with tension between the army and the Tamil Tiger terrorists and finally a thirteen-year-old Tamil girl lives in a village where the arduous battle takes place.
Comprising mostly of young newcomers in the cast and crew, the main roles are played by Chaminda Sampath Jayaweera, Gayeha Perera, Rathnayaka Marasinghe, Siththi Mariyam, Sanjeewa Dissanayake, Sumathy Sivamohan, Nilanka Dhanayake and Kaushalya Fernando while the technical crew includes Vishvajith Karunarathna in the photography, Ajith Ramanayake as the editor, Bimal Dushmantha as the production designer, Aruna Priyantha Kaluarchchi, W.G. Podirathna and Sanjeewa Pushpakumara as sound designers and Tharindu Priyankara de Silva as music director.
Sanjeewa flying high with debut direction
Born and brought up in a war affected ‘boarder village’ and having studied in Galmatiyawa Vidyalaya in Kanthale and Rajakeeya Viddyaloka Maha Vidyalaya, Trincomalee, Sanjeewa obtained his BA from the University of Jayawardenapura and Masters in Mass Communication from the University of Kelaniya.
Having worked as television presenter, script writer and producer, in 2007 Sanjeewa perused a Diploma in Filmmaking from the National Film Corporation at which he became the best student. Subsequently Sanjeewa received a Scholarship from the Korean Culture and Tourism Ministry to study filmmaking at the Asian Young Film Forum in Korea.
He made his first short film in 2007 ‘Touch’ which won the Special Jury prize at the Youth New Wave International Film Festival in Sri Lanka 2008. He also has written a number of books namely ‘Athmabadda Cinema Rupa’ (Analyiticle Study of Prasanna Vithanage's Cinema), ‘Jump Cut Ekak’ and ‘Korean Cinema and Film Language of Kim Ki-duk’.
Having come to Colombo to be a TV presenter, Sanjeewa was greatly influenced by a writer on cinema, Manubandu Vidyapathy and to change his destiny to be a filmmaker. ‘Manubandu Vidyapahty was my first teacher and inspiration to study cinema’ Sanjeewa said with gratitude.
“I had no intention to become a filmmaker until I saw Prasanna Vithanage’s ‘Pawuru Walalu’. Having watched the film, reading about it and participating in discussion I realised that I too had some stories to share with others cinematically”.
Together with Prasnna Vithange, Asoka Handagam made a big influence on me with his courage and undying efforts at filmmaking. Later Prasnna Jayakody also joined them, Sanjeewa added.
The young filmmaker was fortunate to learn a great deal on world cinema and its history from late filmmaker and award winning script writer, Tissa Abeysekera while he was serving as the Director of Sri Lanka Television Training Institute (SLTTI) and also from veteran cinematographer M. D. Mahindapala.
‘Mr. Abeysekara rendered a great service to introduce many great international filmmaker to Sri Lanka moviegoers and filmmakers like me,” Sanjeewa said.
‘My great heroes in cinema are Andrei Tharkovysky and Ingmar Bergman and also renowned filmmakers like Abbas Kiarosthami, Kim Ki duk, Leechan dong, Carlos Regards, Walter Sales, Apichath Pong Weerasethukal, Jafar Panhi, Gus Vantsat and Sameera Makhmalbaf who influenced me to pursue a career to be a filmmaker’.
Speaking on his own film Sanjeewa said ‘This film dream could not have been realised without Manohan Nanayakkara, the chairman of Asia Digital Entertainment (Pvt) Ltd who agreed to support me financially. Next it was Hubert Bals Funds of IFFR which helped in post production”.
Finally Sanjeewa thanked Dr. Chandana Aluthge, Kausalya Fernando, Ravindra Guruge, Somarathne Disanayake, Renuka Balasooriya and Channa Deshappriya who had supported him in various ways.