Jaffna International Film Festival
Women Talk was in Jaffna at the Jaffna International Film Festival 2017. The festival, held in Jaffna, in Sri Lanka’s North, is an annual celebration of world cinema and young filmmakers. Northern Sri Lanka was at the centre of the three-decade long conflict that came to an end in 2009 and recovering from its experiences of war. The film festival contributes to fostering reconciliation, cultural exchange, and interaction through artistic expression. A particular feature of the festival is the short film competition, allowing young short filmmakers from across Sri Lanka to showcase their short films to a global audience. JIFF is curated by festival director Anomaa Rajakaruna. Here are some excerpts of what women had to say about the festival and cinema.
Dr Etami Borjan, Croatia
I came here upon the invitation of the director of the festival to give a lecture on ethnographic film and indigenous cinema. I teach at Zagreb University in Croatia. I am Professor of Film Studies. I teach documentary film, ethnographic film, and history of world cinema. I came here to conduct a master class and I am very happy about it. I gave an overview of a short history of ethnographic film and I also presented contemporary indigenous movies. I was very excited about the lecture because I wanted to get feedback from the audience in Sri Lanka because I know that you also have an indigenous community here. I am really happy to be here to present my work.
Thulasi Muttulingam, Journalist and Blogger
I think this is something that is necessary in Jaffna because of the fact that people are used to a certain structure of viewing things like Kollywood and the local serials. They are not very exposed to festivals like this. So, it is absolutely necessary that they see a medium of films that they usually don’t get to see. People are still getting used to entertainment here. But Jaffna Film Festival is not entertainment. Most of these are very serious films. [I was on a panel at the festival] and that particular film was called Hidden Figures. It was about African American women at NASA in the 1960s. It showed how they had contributed significantly towards NASA’s space mission. But because they were women and because they were black, their contribution was hidden for a long time. They were also discriminated against and badly treated at the time. It was an important film to show because I think it has many parallels in current Jaffna right now – on how local castes are treated, on how women in general are treated. We still have these problems of talking about the gender pay gap.
Stephan Kirubaline, University of Jaffna
I work at the University of Jaffna. I have volunteered for this film festival since its inception three years ago. I am thankful to Anomaa Rajakaruna, the festival director for this opportunity. I am also very interested in the films that are screened at the festival. It is a good opportunity to watch international art films. In this part of Sri Lanka, in the North, we don’t have an opportunity to watch this many award-winning international films at a festival. We encourage art students of the University to come and benefit from this opportunity. I was also an art history student and a reading of the history of cinema is very important to me. I like to study film history. I also like to engage as a film critic. The film festival is a good platform for all of us.
Fiyaza Nizar, University of Jaffna
I came from Kurunegala. I am a final year Art and Designing student at the University of Jaffna. I am working as a volunteer at the Jaffna International Film Festival. Because of my interaction with art as a university student, I got an interest to work for JIFF. I have a particular interest for short films. I also study photography. A lot of my friends have done short films, some of which were shown at the festival. In particular, after attending the master class on documentary filmmaking at the JIFF I am now inspired to direct a documentary myself. I will try to do that. I am very honoured to have participated at this film festival alongside my lecturers and seniors. By coming here, I got a freedom to participate and express my ideas at the festival.
A Meera, University of Jaffna
I am a final year student of the University of Jaffna. We have a film studies subject. The Jaffna Film Festival enables us to link our theoretical knowledge with world cinema. We also hold discussions as groups of students to further critique and debate the content of the films we see. I think it will also be good to screen more Tamil films for the general public. Although international films can be downloaded and watched on the computers, we do not really do that. Therefore, the Jaffna International Film Festival is a valuable opportunity for us to engage with world cinema. It is a very intellectual experience.
K Brintha, University of Jaffna
I am a final year student of the University of Jaffna. It is very useful to us as university students. We definitely need a film festival of this caliber here in the North. We are very eager to watch international films and we value the exposure we get to other cultures. Because I also have a background in film studies I am very eager to watch the films screenings at the festival.
S Sivanusha, University of Jaffna
I am a volunteer at the Jaffna International Film Festival. I am a fine arts and design student of the University of Jaffna. This is the first time I am volunteering for this festival. It was also the first time I came to see films at the festival. At first, I found it to be a very novel experience but gradually, I began to understand them and enjoy them.
I am an artist from Jaffna. The Jaffna International Film Festival is very useful to us. We can watch many films that had been released in other countries as well as award-winning world cinema. It is a very aesthetic experience. In particular, as an artist watching such films are important to me and they inspire me very much. This is a very good opportunity.
Jasmine Nilani Joseph, Artist
I watched films at every festival of the Jaffna International Film Festival since its inception three years ago. We don’t only come to this festival to watch films. We also learn about the diverse cultures of other countries. I am an artist in Jaffna and the festival is useful to me to broaden my knowledge. Because I am an artist I have to have an understanding about what is happening in the world and in the society. This festival is also very useful to those from the North who are involved in the film industry as well as to everyone else in Jaffna who love cinema. We must encourage more people to take part and watch films at the festival.