Film on civil war removed from Jaffna fest

Tamil filmmaker Jude Ratnam says he is yet to get a ‘proper explanation’ from organisers
A Sri Lankan Tamil filmmaker’s take on the country’s civil war, which was scheduled to be screened at the Jaffna International Cinema Festival later this week, has been removed from the list, raising questions about the space for free expression in Sri Lanka’s post-war north. According to filmmaker Jude Ratnam, festival organisers, citing “pressure from the community”, had decided to remove his film, Demons in Paradise , from the scheduled programme. “Thus far, I have not been given a proper explanation for the removal of my film… I feel this is a case of censorship and an infringement on the fundamental rights to freedom of expression,” the director said in a statement on Monday.
Need for dialogue
Festival director Anomaa Rajakaruna, in a statement, accused the director of “walking out of the discussion” and claimed that the slot allocated for Mr. Ratnam’s film was kept open on the schedule. The statement underscored the need for dialogue in finding space for expression. The fourth edition of the film festival is being held from October 3 to 8 across different venues in Jaffna, featuring works from about 30 countries. Demons in Paradise shines the spotlight on the Tamil community’s internal battles during the civil war. The film received a red-carpet honour at the Cannes Film Festival last year and has since travelled to many other international film festivals.
First opportunity
Mr. Ratnam said: “This was the first opportunity that I got to screen it in Jaffna.” An uncommon critique of the LTTE from within the Tamil community, the film has drawn both critical acclaim and criticism. For many Tamils, the rebel Tigers’ struggle remains a heroic effort in taking on the Sri Lankan State’s historic discrimination and brutality against the island’s Tamil minority. However, some within the Tamil society have, for long, questioned what they term the LTTE’s hegemonic attitude and apparent intolerance to dissent within. The LTTE often branded them as “traitors” and eliminated several such voices.
“The organisers say there’s some pressure from the ‘community’. Who is this community, I ask? For years, we have had this ghost within the community that will resist any political discourse contrary to the dominant narrative. This shows it is still in our midst,” Mr. Ratnam said.
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