Jaffna International Cinema Festival 2019: Transcending cultural and political boundaries | Sunday Observer

Jaffna International Cinema Festival 2019: Transcending cultural and political boundaries

1 September, 2019

The malicious, grief stricken memories of the 30-year-old civil war, the Palmyrah tree, the taste of Jaffna chicken curry savoured years ago - these are the vague, yet inter-related memories that crowd us in the South when someone says ‘Jaffna’, due to the very limited encounters and engagements that we have with the peninsular. Although years have passed since the end of the evil civil war, Jaffna is a separate state for many living in the South, as the language, culture, economy and many other things have kept us at a distance.

Within the context of the ambiguous North and South relationship, it is interesting to acknowledge the effort taken by the Jaffna International Cinema Festival continuously for the past five years, transcending cultural and political boundaries between the two ‘states’ through cinema.

The fifth edition of the Jaffna International Cinema Festival 2019 (Jaffna ICF) kicks off in the city of Jaffna on September 3 and this time the festival will remain for a week and the Awards ceremony will be held on September 9 at the Majestic Cineplex, Cargills Square, Jaffna.

Indisputably JaffnaICF is the only International Cinema Festival in the country which has lasted for the consecutive fifth year. JaffnaICF came to light in 2015 on a small scale and every year it marked its stability and today, stands tall as the one and only International cinema festival in the country.

Honouring the seniors and encouraging the young generation of filmmakers, the JaffnaICF will present awards for Lifetime Achievement, Best Debut Film, Best International Short Film, Ceylon Theatres Award for Best National Short Film and Audience Award for the Most Popular Short Film.

Speaking to the Sunday Observer the Festival Director, Anomaa Rajakaruna said, “JaffnaICF is all about creating a dialogue between the North and the South and with the rest of the world through cinema. Although it has been sometime since the civil war in the country ended militarily, we as a nation are still divided ethnically, religiously, politically and in many other ways. Our main intention is to encourage young and first time filmmakers by creating a platform to showcase their expression through cinema. All sections competing in the Festival are formed through this idea and our three main awards have been dedicated to appreciate debut cinematic efforts of filmmakers and young filmmakers,”

This year JaffnaICF 2019 consists of 70 films with the participation of 22 countries, including feature films, documentaries and short films. The countries participating are: Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Iran, Italy, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Norway, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, UK and USA.

The opening Film at the Festival will be ‘Transit’ by Christian Petzold (Germany/2018/101’) and the closing Film will be Paangshu by Visakesa Chandraseka (Sri Lanka/2018/85’).

As Anomaa explained JaffnaICF 2019 has paid special attention on promoting short filmmakers of the country as well as around the world by creating a platform to showcase their creative work and also to take part in the competition and win LKR 100,000 cash prize for the Best National Short Film offered by Ceylon Theatres. Twelve each of international and local short films will be screened at the festival.

“As we celebrate the debut cinematic expressions of young filmmakers, we also appreciate the effort and the contribution made by veteran filmmakers of the country. Therefore, this year, JaffnaICF would be a retrospective of Sri Lankan filmmaker Prasanna Vithange showcasing a few of his outstanding cinematic ventures namely, Purahanda Kaluwara (1997), Ira Mediyama (2003), Oba Nethuwa Oba Ekka (2012), Anantha Rathriya (1996), Pawuru Walalu (1997 ) and his Debut Documentary Feature Silence in the Courts (2015),” said Anomaa.

Country Focus this year is on Brazil and five feature films from Brazil will be screened at the festival. The Government Film Unit of Sri Lanka will present a package of Sri Lankan documentaries this year too in Jaffna.

Being an eccentric woman from the South, with very limited resources and contacts in the North at the time she initiated JaffnaICF, Anomaa says she was driven by her gut feeling at the time she planted the initial seed of JaffnaICF in the soil of Jaffna, a city with loads of agony, pain, discrimination and negligence. Undoubtedly, for one from the South with little knowledge of the language and their culture, to select Jaffna city as the venue of the festival is somewhat revolutionary.

“Being a researcher by profession, I don’t do anything without a research. Seven years ago there was a need for an international festival in the country and we decided that it was not going to be in Colombo, for sure. Although I am a researcher who does not do anything without a proper research, the decision to select Jaffna as the venue for the festival truly depended on my gut feeling. Jaffna is a city with so many wounds to be healed. Still, we as a nation have not started the discussion properly to understand each other. Therefore, in this context we believe JaffnaICF could take the initiative to create this discussion through cinema. And we are glad for the support that has been given by many individuals regionally and internationally. JaffnaICF has been possible only because of the generosity of the people in the North, filmmakers the world over as well as the cinema enthusiasts in the country. We welcome all cinema enthusiasts to come and join with JaffnaICF 2019 and continue the discussion forward,” Anomaa said.