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Sunday, 09 October 2016

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Seeping through the silence

Justice, as a sacrosanct ideal that is meant to serve humanity in a world rigged with imperfections can be seen in the maxim 'Fiat justitia ruat clum' which translates to -"Let justice be done though the heavens fall." Renowned Sri Lankan filmmaker Prasanna Vithanage's documentary film "Silence in the Courts" (Usaaviya Nihandayi) is now gaining its space to screen a narrative of an incident that was fraught with controversy. The film is on the alleged sexual abuse of a woman by a judicial officer and was subjected to court orders restraining its screening as it was said to be prejudicial to the reputation of a magistrate who asserted that the allegation was completely baseless.

"Silence in the Courts" has been produced by H. D. Premasiri and Prasanna Vithanage as a joint venture and was screened at several film festivals including Sakhalin International Film Festival.

The film carries as its tagline the crux of what the filmmaker himself has borne what he seems to treat as his civic duty as an artist. The film's tagline reads -'Two women were raped by a judge.

After a journalist fails in his struggle to deliver justice to them, a filmmaker embarks on a quest to unearth the cause for that injustice'.

What is interesting to note is that in the present socio-political climate as the judiciary seems to be brought under scrutiny from various quarters (both domestically and from overseas) and the 'Fourth Estate' (the media) is also being widely discussed for its conduct pertaining to ethical standards, a film as this is bound to be the subject of a lot of debate and contention.

As a filmmaker Vithanage's attempt to deliver a voice for justice comes through a form of mass media. And it directs its accusatorial finger towards the institution that is tasked with delivering justice. The late U.S black civil rights leader 'Malcolm X' said "The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses."

At the time of writing this article 'Silence in the Courts' was on the eve of its Sri Lankan debut to the public. Once it enters the public discourse one wonders if Vithanage's work will be treated as a narrative of reportage that seeks to uncover facts while remaining unbiased, or if it will as a work disseminated through mass media, touch on what Malcolm X says; and appear to take on the task of being 'Judge, Jury and Executioner.'

Time, will soon tell.

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