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I wanted ‘my side’ to lose: filmmaker Jude Ratnam

Filmmaker Jude Ratnam blames the LTTE for many of the atrocities carried out in Sri Lanka’s civil war.

The director speaking to BBC’s Nalini Sivathasan said,

“When the war was coming to an end, I wanted the [Tamil] Tigers to lose the fight. I wanted it to end, even if my own people had to be killed,” Ratnam says.

The war did end in 2009, with the Sri Lankan government defeating the LTTE.

Nearly a decade on from the end of the war, Sri Lankan filmmakers are tentatively re-examining the 26-year conflict.


Ratnam’s film – Demons in Paradise

The film looks at the Tamil nationalist groups which emerged from the 1970s in response to anti-Tamil violence.

But these factions started killing each other, with the LTTE emerging as victors. In one massacre, it reportedly killed hundreds of members of the rival Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO).

Ratnam follows his uncle, a former fighter for a rival Tamil organisation, as he meets other critics of the Tamil Tigers. In one scene, a man describes the torture meted out by the group.

“They took my father in his sleep, with his bed. They tortured him with an iron. They ironed his back and pierced his eye with a needle. They did that to lots of people.”

The movie has received critical acclaim since its premiere at the Cannes Films Festival in 2017.

Athithan Jayapalan, a Norway-based academic who specialises in Tamil identity, doesn’t dispute the crimes committed by the LTTE.

However, he thinks the film is misleading for foreign audiences who may be unfamiliar with the civil war.

“You could compare this to a film which looked at the black civil rights movement in the United States but only focused on the struggles between the Black Panthers and another rival party – it’s not giving you the proper context.”

 

Warning for Tamil diaspora

Ratnam says his focus on the Tamil Tigers was intentional – to warn the Tamil community, especially those living abroad, about romanticising the group.

“In the diaspora you tend to live in a bubble, that you left your homeland and you have this nostalgia about it… whereas the truth is that even back at home things change. Those who faced the brunt of the war, they would probably welcome this film more.”

But Sri Lanka-based human rights lawyer Mathuri Thamilmaran disagrees. She saw Demons in Paradise in the capital Colombo, and asks why Ratnam has avoided screening the film in

Tamil areas of the country.

“Ironically this film is about Tamil people but it hasn’t been shown to Tamil people and I’m suspicious of that.”

 

Healing wounds?

In the past decade, a semblance of peace has returned to Sri Lanka. But the reaction to Demons in Paradise is another example that Sri Lanka is still very much divided along ethnic lines.

Jude Ratnam says he is not surprised by the backlash but insists his film can help foster reconciliation between the Tamil and Sinhalese community in Sri Lanka.

“Acknowledging the vice in our [Tamil] community, is how we can get away from it. If you keep denying it and play the victim card all the time, then you invariably return to it.”

 

Source (story and pic) – www.bbc.com