Sri Lankan film festival accused of censorship

Pressure from unknown group resulted in civil war documentary being pulled from program, says director
Sri Lankan film festival accused of censorship

Jude Ratnam, director of Demons in Paradise, at Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland in August. His film depicts the struggles of victims of Sri Lanka's 26-year-long civil war, especially those in former war-torn Jaffna. (Photo by Susitha Fernando/ucanews.com)

The organizers of a film festival in Sri Lanka have been accused of censorship for pulling from its program a documentary about the island nation's civil war.

Film director Jude Ratnam said he was told on Oct. 3 by organisers of the Jaffna International Film Festival (JIFF) that his acclaimed documentary Demons in Paradise would not be shown on Oct. 5 as had been scheduled.

Ratnam alleges the organizers decided to remove the film, which covers atrocities committed during the war, because of pressure from a group known only as the "community" in the northern city of Jaffna.

"JIFF organizers said they have been threatened by a group and give different reasons but no proper explanation for the removal of the film," Ratnam told ucanews.com. "They have cited different reasons to prohibit the film from being screened."

The documentary, which competed at the Cannes Film Festival in France last year, is a personal telling of the country's 1983-2009 civil war which claimed some 100,000 lives.

The director said what has occurred is a case of censorship that has impacted on his fundamental rights to freedom of expression.

Anoma Rajakaruna, the festival director of JIFF, issued a statement accusing the director of walking out of a discussion about his film but failed to explain why the film was removed from the program.

Media watchdogs, rights groups and filmmakers are among those who have condemned the decision not to show the film.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) criticized the action.

"IFJ believe that all citizens of Sri Lanka have the constitutional rights of freedom of expression, and the film is an artistic product enjoying the freedom of artistic expression, therefore it should be freely screened regardless of its contents," said IFJ in a statement on Oct.  5.

In protest, filmmaker Malaka Devapriya removed his film Bahuchithawadiya from the festival and the Free Media Movement also criticised JIFF's actions.

Watch the trailer for 'Demons in Paradise' below.

 

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