Sumithra Peiris, wife of veteran film maker Lester James Peiris during the ceremony recognizing the achievement of her husband. (Photo from SIGNIS Sri Lanka)
Veteran Catholic Sri Lankan film director, producer and screenwriter Lester James Peiris, 98, has been bestowed with a lifetime award for his contribution to cinema.
Sociologist and writer Praneeth Abhayasundara said Peiris made 20 feature films and established a global reputation.
He was addressing film industry representatives as well bishops, priests and nuns at the 40th SIGNIS Cinema and Teledrama awards ceremony held at Nelumpokuna Theater in Colombo on Oct. 13.
"Before Peiris, Sinhala films were heavily influenced by South Indian movies," Abhayasundara said.
In 1956 Peiris made the film Rekava with entirely Sri Lankan outdoor locations and that was considered to be a turning point in the evolution of Sri Lankan cinema.
Abhayasundara described Peiris as a national icon who often dealt with rural family life in his films.
That included portraying religion, the caste system and culture through the struggles of conflicted characters in his stories.
The World Catholic Organization for Communication-SIGNIS award ceremony is the country's oldest and most prominent.
Oblate Priest Father Lal Pushpadewa Fernando, president of SIGNIS and National director for Social Communication, said Peiris gained worldwide recognition.
Chief guests were Vatican Apostolic Nunciature Archbishop Pierre Nguyen Van Tot and Veteran cinematographer Sumithra Peiris, wife of film maker Peiris.
Peiris was born on April 05, 1919 and studied at church-run St. Peters College in Colombo.
His teacher encouraged him to be a Catholic priest but he became a journalist and worked at the Daily News and Times of Ceylon.
Peiris became an active filmmaker in 1949.