Saturday, 12 September 2020| 7 PM

White Van Stories

Director:  Leena Manimekalai

(120m, 2015, Docu, Sri Lanka)

A documentary feature on enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka following seven characters from the families of the disappeared.The documentary covers a gamut of provinces and ethnicities (Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities) in its coverage of the tragic unexplained disappearances of civilians in post-war Sri Lanka. It shines a light on the resilience and courage that many have adopted to find the disappeared as part of their continued fight for justice.

 

The film was largely shot undercover given the situation of military occupation in the Tamil areas and press censorship in Lanka. The key characters are followed amongst the hundreds of families of the disappeared who had participated in the historical protests held in Jaffna and Colombo on 27th and 30th of August 2013 (International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances) during UNHRC High Commissioner, Ms. Navi Pillay’s visit to Sri Lanka and hence the protests become centerpiece of the film. The camera encounters the military check posts on every entry into the villages where the characters inhabit. The lightning testimonials of the characters and their mission of the constant search of their beloved ones for years together without losing hope form the narrative arc. The human resilience and their belief systems are the main concern as perspective and the politics revels through those expressions. The history puts itself in the context with the oral - visual narratives of the experiences of violence by characters through the ethnic strife in the island for almost three decades.

Sunday, 13 September 2020 | 7 PM 

Sengadal/the Deadsea

Director: Leena Manimekalai

(90m, 2011, Docu Fiction, India/Sri Lanka)

On the Indian mainland, across the waters, arrive the Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka, an unending stream of people dispossessed of their lands and Gods, to an uncertain future with ever receding hopes of return. Dhanushkodi, the Indo-Sri Lankan border town, is the crucible wherein History is brewing this concoction of defeated lives and exhausted dreams. Hope is a big word and resistance but a tired expression. Three decades of struggle for a nation is washed out, a race obliterated.

 

For, there is no one fighting their war back home now. Heroic images have turned to dust. The bunkers run with the wasted blood. Smoke rises from heaps of putrid flesh. Unwanted lives rot away in barbed wire human zoos.

 

The misery spills over to the Indian shore. Fishermen fishing in fear in ignorance of friendly and enemy waters get dumped as rebels, spies and smugglers and unceremoniously beaten to death or shot or maimed. Yet, each morning sees their boats launched once again to the sea as the sea is their motherland and the language of fish their mother tongue.

 

Manimekalai, the filmmaker, Munusamy, the fisherman, Rosemary, the social worker in Jesuit Christian Refugee Services, try hard to retain their sanity in this mad jumble. Their interactions with the dead or living refugees, their skirmishes with the Indian and Sri Lankan States, their personal lives overrun by external events - form the kernel of this narration. Soori, a half-wit Sri Lankan Tamil, who connects to the world through his radio, stands aloof in this bleak world of despair sending lightning jolts of truth into the dark recesses of History. No wonder, he vanishes into the blue and Manimekalai is forced by the State to return to the world of civil obedience. Munusamy is killed and Rosemary turns to her God, the same God who parted the Red Sea to save his flock in their flight from annihilation.

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