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Documentaries on Lanka conflict

india Updated: Feb 18, 2009 23:24 IST
MR Venkatesh

Sri Lanka may have declared itself a Buddhist state long ago but the pear-shaped island-nation's protracted ethnic conflict seems to present Jainism's cardinal doctrine of


or the many-sidedness of Truth.

This is the distinct impression two documentary films on the decades-long ethnic violence in Sri Lanka is generating among people in Tamil Nadu.

"I was in Sri Lanka during the years 2000-05. So many events have overtaken it and from what used to be called an ethnic conflict, it is now called a war on terror, completely dislocating peoples and memories. That is why it is so important to recapture the memory of those times," said Iffat Fatima, one of the filmmakers, who happens to be a Kashmiri.

Fatima, also a culture researcher, has made 'Lanka- The Other Side of War and Peace'. The screening of the two films was made possible by the French Cultural Centre here and evoked considerable public interest.

The other documentary is by S Someetharan, a Sri Lankan Tamil journalist and filmmaker. His work, 'Burning Memories', focuses on the burning of the world-famous Jaffna Public Library in 1981, a critical turning point in Sinhala-Tamil relations in that country.

Fatima's canvas is wider. She had the 'advantage' of the temporary peace to shoot her film before the latest phase of hostilities between the Sri Lankan Army and the LTTE broke out. In fact, her documentary's take-off point is the opening of the A9 Highway, the only and critical road link between the Jaffna peninsula and the nation's South.

"It is about 100 hours of conversation I managed to record, traveling on the A9 Highway, collecting stories and testimonials of people whose lives have been disrupted by the violence," Fatima said in an interaction later.

Someetharan, on the other hand, started shooting his documentary under more troubled times in 2006. The Jaffna Library image is glued to his childhood memories. "I was born very near it 19 days before its burning. So, I had to offer something to my generation," he said. Someetharan, who calls himself a gypsy, has been staying in India for the last few years.

At the end of the day, both the screenings underlined the fact that the worst sufferers of the cycle of political violence and counter-violence are ordinary people. Both filmmakers leave room for hope and highlight the need for a peaceful and just settlement of the Tamils' issue.