Nita Fernando wins Best Actress, Foreign Language Film at 2019 Nice International Film Festival

Veteran actress Nita Fernando won Best Actress in the Foreign Language Films category for her role as the dhoby woman ‘Babanorna’ in Visakesa Chandrasekaram’s second feature film “Paangshu” (Earth), at the 2019 Nice International Film Festival of France, held on Saturday 18 May.

Kumara Karawdeniya won the Best Costume Designer’s award, whilst Visakesa Chandrasekaram was also nominated for the Award of the Best Screenplay.

The story which is set in the Sri Lankan post-insurgence era of 1988/89 revolves around a launderer Babanorna (Nita Fernando) is summoned to an identification parade where she identifies Lionel (Mayura Kaanchana Perera) as one of the paramilitary men who abducted her son during the insurgency.

While Indika (Jagath Manuwarna), the young public prosecutor shows little or no interest in helping Babanorna finding her missing son, Namalee (Nadie kammallaweera), the pregnant wife of the paramilitary man seeks forgiveness from the launderer.

As the prolonging hearings in the dilapidated courthouse continues for months, shameful secrets are gradually unearthed by the defeated rebels, victorious soldiers and those who were crushed in between.

The background to this story is such that Paangshu writer/director Visakesa Chandrasekaram grew up witnessing the atrocities of the brutal insurgency in the south and the 30-years-long war in the north. After finishing his law degree he became a human rights lawyer defending ethnic Tamil political prisoners who were held in prolonged detention under the draconian counter-terrorism laws.

‘I am of the strong view that post-war reconciliation cannot be facilitated ignoring these crimes occurred during the Sinhalese insurgency. Inclusion of the Sinhalese insurgency in the reconciliation discourse is necessary to generate an empathic response in the Sinhalese audience, since the current post-war reconciliation efforts are largely embargoed by the Sinhalese nationalist claims against granting justice to the Tamil victims of war. Tamil people also should be prepared to acknowledge the brutal violence unleashed by the Tamil rebels against other Tamils who disobeyed the brutal authority of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam,’ Chandrasekaram had commented

This is Nita Fernando’s second international award for best acting.