Colombo, Peace and Conflict

Circles of Violence: A Return to Sri Lanka

CIRCLES OF VIOLENCE : A Return to Sri Lanka is film that about which Sam got in first got in touch with me around two years ago.

He filmed 3 – 4 times in the intervening years and I got to see the final product last night at Barefoot, along with around 150 – 200 others who were present at the screening. Perhaps more than the film, a preview of which I had seen earlier, I was interested to listen to those in the audience discuss Sri Lanka’s conflictual social, economic, political terrains through their own experience. Some, who had returned to Sri Lanka like Sam after spending many years abroad, others who had lived through it all, and many foreigners, working outside of Colombo with rural communities, expressed what they felt / saw were some of the causes of violent conflict, how it could be mitigated, and the manner in which education, language, identity, caste, class and other labels served often to divide peoples, rather than unite.

What made a Sri Lankan a Sri Lankan, was a topic that animated many in the room. Some said that we needed to celebrate our individual identity as a Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, Malay or Dutch-Burgher (or any other communal identity) in Sri Lanka. Others said there was no such thing as a unique communal identity – and that a history of inter-marriage, foreign invasions, migration and population movements necessarily erased any notion of a “pure” identity, reminding me of the Zulu maxim “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” — meaning, in essence, “a person is a person through other persons.”

It was a good night to see, listen and talk about the many ways in which this country is both blessed, and cursed.

As Sam notes:

Circles of Violence: A Return to Sri Lanka is a personal exploration by Sri Lankan / Australian documentary maker that exposes the island’s dark history and tries to make sense of the deeper processes beneath the violence.

The film raises some fundamental questions about Sri Lanka’s future, and recalls a time when balance was respected and wisdom prevailed.

CIRCLES OF VIOLENCE : A Return to Sri Lanka reveals the profound dilemmas faced by a society gripped by a new kind of strife one that other societies (especially in the west) could well face in the near future.

I am told by Sam that a DVD of the film, which runs for just under an hour, will be made available for purchase locally in the near future. Click here for the original of the trailer shown above.

Update: Nazreen’s Flickr stream has a photo of Sam and Manik Sandrasagara, a key character in the film, here.