Red carpet welcome for Gamperaliya at Cannes today
Gamperaliya for Cannes Classic Restored Films:
Martin Wickramasinghe, fondly remembered founder of modern Sri
Sri Lankan cinema will make its presence felt, once again, at the
prestigious Cannes Festival as restored version of Dr. Lester James
Peries’s Gamperaliya which is based on the celebrated novel by Sri
Lanka’s foremost novelist, sage of Koggala, Martin Wickamasinghe will be
screened at the festival under the category of Cannes Restored Classics.
Gamperaliya which won the Gran Prix at the Indian Film Festival in
1965 and it also won the Gran Prix at Mexico film festival in the same
year, has been selected this year for the Cannes International Film
Festival for its very special section Cannes Classics Restored.
This year Gamperaliya has been selected as one of the Cannes Classics
which entitled it to be universally appreciated by international film
critics who attend the festival.
The doyen of Sri Lankan Cinema, Dr. Lester James Peries:
bringing honour to the tear drop and the cultural dessert amidst
a vast ocean of cultural prosperity.
The film has been restored in America by the University of Southern
California (UCLA) in USA which has a technologically perfect restoration
unit. This particular unit is entirely funded by Packard who are
responsible for the selection of Gamperaliya.
The restoration of Gamperaliya has become a significant event for
both Gamperaliya coming from the 1965s and for Sri Lankan film industry.
Another significant aspect of the restoration was that Gamperaliya could
be distributed on DVD for most film archives in Europe and the rest of
When the restored version of Gamperaliya scheduled to be screened at
Cannes in the category of Cannes Classic on May 18, 2008 (Sunday) that
Gamperaliya will have a new lease of life. For this year’s Cannes Film
festival 22 films are selected out of 1700 entries for the main section,
for the competition.
The entry of Gamperaliya into the section of Cannes Classics will
automatically make it one of the celebrated classics in the world
cinema, a defining moment for Sri Lankan cinema.
Section other than the competitive section though not qualified for
awards, has a universal acclaim and would grab the focus of
international film critic fraternity.
Mr. and Mrs. David Packard themselves have taken a personal interest
in the restoration of films that fall into this category and all the
cost of restoration would have been borne by Hewlett Packard.
Scene from Gamperaliya, which stands out as a magnum opus among
the great cinematic creations that truly depicts the enchanting
village life at the tale end of the 19 the Century capturing
very essence of the creative genius of Martin Wickramasinghe.
The film was restored as a result of strong recommendations by a
distinguished French critic and scholar Pierre Rissient to the visual
and audio perfection by Rob Stone and Jere Guldin.
This singular honour has been possible due to the dedication and
untiring efforts across the two continents, by Pierre Rissient of France
and the University of South California to restore the film to its
original magnificence; “Lester James Peries’s towering masterpiece
‘Gamperaliya’ from a country like Sri Lanka whose existence of
cinematography is practically ignored, showing of ‘Gamperaliya’ will be
celebrated as a major discovery-and it is certain that all the
festivals, Archives, Museums, Cinematheques, Arts and Repertory
theatres, Collectors and DVDs will make this film at long last known as
In 1957, Rekawa had been selected for the competition, the only
Sinhala film selected for the main competition. Besides Dr. Lester James
Peries’ Beddegama and Kaliyugaya have also been selected for the
category Director’s Fortnight, one of the Side bars at the Festival.
Director’s Fortnight, Critic’s choice and Uncertain Regards are the
side bars at the Festival. Dr. Lester James Peries’ Wekanda Walauwa was
shown at the Festival as a special invited film and Feline Gold Medal
was given for Wekanda Walauwa. After 47 years, Gamperaliya will be
screened as a restored classic.
Buddhist calendar illuminates Vesak
Kalasuri Jayasiri Semage
Kalasuri Jayasiri Semage has produced a Buddhist Calendar to mark the
forthcoming Vesak festival. The calendar will be distributed free by the
President’s office on a directive by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and
first lady Shiranthy Rajapaksa.
Kalasuri Semage’s paintings have a close affinity with the vesak
festival. A pandal created by him can be seen in Colombo or any other
part of the island during the festival. One of his pandals put up in
front of the Temple of the Tooth Relic about three years ago depicted
the story of the Tooth Relic in colourful pictures.
In fact, he won the first prize for his painting entitled “Budu
siritha” at an art exhibition organised by the Jathika Kala Peramuna,
that happened while he was a student. The painting was presented to a
visiting Japanese Buddhist delegation which took it to Japan to be
displayed permanently at an art gallery.
The Vesak calenders issued in previous years depicted temple murals
done by Sri Lankan painters. Kalasuri Semage has deviated from this
practice by producing a calender with four paintings that highlight a
calendar with four paintings that highlight certain important aspects of
the Buddha’s life.
In a telephone interview Semage told me that he had concentrated on
the birth of Prince Siddhartha, the Great Renunciation, Sujatha’s
presentation of milk rice and the Enlightenment.
He says he has done justice to the four paintings using water colours,
without using his traditional oil paints an d canvas. He further says
that the printing of the calendars is now in progress with the blessings
of the President.
From what he says I gather that the Enlightenment stands out as a
unique creation because it has deviated from the traditional style. What
we saw all these years was the sedate image of the Buddha sitting under
the Bo Tree being worshipped by a host of gods.
Semage’s painting shows how the Buddha lights up the whole world with
his Enlightenment. The artist has captured with his brush strokes now
the birds, trees and creepers turn towards the Buddha paying their
Although calendars are valid from January to December, Semage’s Vesak
calender will begin its lifespan from Vesak this year to Vesak nest
year. Therefore, every temple and Buddhist home will be eager to adorn
their walls with this unique calender. The paintings are worthy of
framing because they are printed on quality art paper.
Kalasuri Jayasiri Semage has a chequered history as a Buddhist
painter in Sri Lanka and abroad for many decades. About ten years ago he
constructed a pandal depicting the then President’s ‘Dasaraja Dharma”,
He put up a Buddhist pandal for nine consecutive years in front of the
Temple Trees during R. Premadasa’s regime.
A few years ago he put up a huge Buddhist pandal in Japan. In
addition, he is credited with the creation of Buddhist murals at Mangala
Vihara in Singapore. He also created a large painting of Borobudur to
mark the Vesak festival in Singapore.
He became a well-known painter in Singapore when he published a book
depicting many aspects of the Buddha’s life.
The Singapore Buddhists hold him in high esteem as the painter who
created a beautiful painting depicting the Buddha’s first Dhammadesana
to his five pupils.
The rare painting was later deposited at Man-fat-Lam Chinese temple
in Singapore. With his Vesak calender Kalasuri Jayasiri Semage will go
down history as one of the foremost Buddhist painters produced by Sri
Lanka. His commitment to Buddhist art should serve as a guiding light to
the new generation of artists.