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Friday, December 8, 2023





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Deep-seated applications in film making

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Boodi Kirthisena in a pensive mood

Director Boodee Keerthisena is looking to work with young filmmakers and film lovers in his up and coming psychological thriller working title Nimnayaka Hudakalawa (Children of a Silent Age). He is young and a promising film maker who would upturn the conventional notion of film making in Sri Lanka.

Sihina Deshayen would suffice to judge his application in the medium of film and I would dare say his applications are radical and imposing at times.

However, Mille Soya stands out as a unique creation where Lashman Joseph de Saram created an immortal score of music against the back unfolding story of daring escapade.

Milley Soya goes down in the annals of Sinhala films as a masterpiece which explores the modern day plight of Sri Lankan youth who seek greener pastures in European destinations.

His application in cinema is unique in the sense he explores into the very limitations in structure, theme and context of the work at hand.

Scenes From the film Nimnayaka Hudakalawa

Q:When and how did the idea that inspired to make “Sihina Deshayen (“From the dream land”) was conceived?

A: I was walking down the street. There were leaves catching the wind and then I felt like a seed in the wind. It reminded me of “David Bowie’s” version of Wild Is the Wind song... So with that thought in my mind...I conceived the idea for “Sinhana Deshayen” or (A Transmission from the dream land).

However I could not entirely translate the English title into Sinhala because it was said to be an ill-omen. It was my first pretentious movie. I was influenced by Derrick Jarman, Peter Greenaway and Andre Tharkovesky. If someone asks how I got to “Sinhina Deshayen”, I would say through Peter Brooks “Mahabharata” and Dereck Jarman’s “Jubilee”. When I saw Mahabharata, for the first time, in New York City, it influenced me a lot to think of the movie through a theatre group. By that time I had also watched Angelo Theopolos’s (Greek Filmmaker) works as well.

As a filmmaker, today I look back on Sihina Deshayen, I have grown really out of that style to a different style when I came to Mille Soya. Because it was more like an anthropological movie to me. By that I was categorizing myself as an anthropological film maker while I was doing that movie.

Because, the film was between Sri Lanka, Italy and New York City.

Q:You made a name and fame out of the film “Mille Soya” which won many awards. Did any event in real life influence you to make the movie?

A: When I was trying to make my next movie “How big was my country?” my teacher Ramin Naiami (he is also an Iranian) told me to make “Mille Soya”.

“How big my Country?” was a kind of a romantic comedy-taking place in the future with Ravana, Rama and gods coming down from heaven. But Ramin looked at me and asked “Don’t you have anything else? “ I told “I have something called ‘Moths to the flame’. He said “Boodee, you go home and make that one. This seems to be much more closer to your heart”.

“Moths to the Flame” became “Mille Soya”.

So I came home and started to do Mille Soya.

I tried to collaborate with Prasanna Vithanage and he wanted to write the screenplay. But, somehow, it did not happen. Actually he did go with me to every place since it is a very true experience of my life. In the end Prasanna told me “Boodee now I understand your loneliness”.

One of the main reason for “Mille Soya” was, that most of the flight from New York City to Colombo I flew, came via Middle East. At Middle East, there were housemaids, people who have gone to work there. They would come up to me on the airplane and would say either in Sinhala or Tamil “Can you help us to fill out the landing cards?” So filled them out for them and I listen to their stories. Some people have just come out.

They were taken into Middle East on the promise of jobs and they had been locked up in a room. Some people were treated well and some people were treated really badly. So my heart went out to them.

Then we were all standing in the line for immigration and when it came to that woman, giving them landing cards, the officer at that desk scolded her “You have not filled it properly?” (Meka Purola naha, yanava gihilla purogena enava”.

I was thinking as Sri Lankans, we have only this place on earth to be a home and every other country, they treat their people as number one priority...and why in our country do we not treat our people as number one priority.

That was very disturbing for me. I wanted to investigate more into it and thought of making a movie on this.

Then I realised I am so far away from Sahara and the Middle East, but I was more close to Italy and Europe because all my childhood friends, friends from my village, were ending up in Italy. Then I started talking to them. By that time, they were caught up in between two countries.

They go to Italy and earn money and come back to build a house. They buy the land and suddenly they find the money was over and they go again and earn some more money and come back again to build the house.

They go again to Italy and earn money to buy interior furniture, then to admit their children to Italian schools.

After a while they realise their children are learning and getting adopted to the culture there and the house is also finished by now with big wide gates. When they realise they will have to leave the house closed and stay in Italy till the child’s education is done, automatically they feel trapped in-between.

They become in-betweeners, that’s how I felt about them in some ways. Like Michel Foucault talks about people without a land. Those days, mentally retarded people were taken from the main land and dumped on different islands.

They did not have their original lands or neither did they belong to the new lands. They were in-betweeners. So I thought I would make a story about my friends.

Q:How long did you take to make the film ‘Milles Soya’?

A: Finally it took us about 90,000 dollars and four long years. I thought we would do it before any foreigner comes and try to make a movie in this region. We had problems with the cast. One of my actors went to Jail. Then when we went to get visas, they said we can not have visas at that time.

Finally When they were giving Visas, there was no snow in Italy. Since we needed snow in the film, we waited. So it dragged on and on and I got totally tired of making movies. My cinematographer from New York City Moshe Ben-Yaish told me, “Boodee, you are trying to shoot a 4 Million Dollar movie in 100,000 Dollars. Its impossible.”

The team did not give up. I had people from eight different countries working with me. German, Israeli, Polish, French, Italian, American, Sri Lankan and with post-production in India, Indians too.

Finally it worked out well and we screened the movie in 2004. I think it was a very historical and hysterical moment because I found out that for the first time, film festival jury had resigned. I did not realise why, but when the second jury came onboard and they (jury) gave me an extra award for me.

The movie went on and people started to watch it. Most people did not watch. Sri Lanka is a very interesting country when it comes to movie watching.

Because, people would come up to you and congratulate and ask “Are you going to make a new movie? “. Then I will ask “well, did you see my old one? “, “Oh, no I didn’t? “. “So why should I make another one you didn’t even watch my last movie”. So I did not make a movie for a long time.

Q:What is your latest movie?

A: When I got the urge to make one, it was ‘Pale Blue’, action thriller. I wrote the script and then I realized it was also again an expression.

Chinthana Dharmadasa came one day and asked “Boodee Ayya, you better do a movie immediately”.

He is a founder member of The Young Film Makers but they have changed their name into Guerrilla Film Makers. I thought it’s a great Idea to make a movie with the Guerilla film makers, since I have a lots of “Dogme” film making background. I always love the idea of collaborations working with others. So myself and Chinthana wrote the screenplay in just over three weeks. When I was writing I thought we were doing some kind of David Lynch type movie. However, my editor to be read the screenplay and said that it was a bit like David Connenberg’s “Naked Lunch” the movie.


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