Colombo, Constitutional Reform, Disaster Management, Human Rights, Human Security, IDPs and Refugees, Peace and Conflict

“We need a revolution in Sri Lanka!” – A brief chat with Sam de Silva

Sam de Silva
Photo credit: Nazreen Sansoni

“on one level, Sri Lanka needs a revolution to really change what’s going on here. There is such a domination by the powers that be… there needs to be a real uprising. How to actually get an “enlightened uprising”, to use a term from the film, is the tricky part.”

I caught up with Sam de Silva of Circles of Violence fame, before he headed back to Australia tonight. Sam’s film, shown to a few of us in Colombo last week, has already generated some interesting responses and is the most recent attempt to explore through film Sri Lanka’s tryst with peace in the midst of rising violence.

Sam began by stating that for him what was most interesting about the premiere of the film a week ago at Barefoot was the discussion on what it is to be a Sri Lankan and what (and how) we define a Sri Lankan identity. Comfortable with his Australian identity, he said he was more interested in the oftentimes deeply dismissive reaction to ideas and input that those with a Sri Lankan lineage who had lived outside of the country generated amongst those who were residents in Sri Lanka.

I mentioned to Sam that it may be useful to take Circles of Violence outside of Colombo, suitably subtitled in Sinhala and Tamil. Sam agreed that the film could become a useful talking point to critique local politics and also said he was interested in exploring the potential of the film to raise awareness on the current situation in Sri Lanka amongst diasporic and other audiences in Australia, the US and Europe.

Sam expressed his regret that he couldn’t interview Sri Lankan politicians for his film, who he said controlled the destiny of Sri Lanka, on account of concerns for his personal security. However, he did say that upon returning to Sri Lanka, he would be deeply interested to speak with them on film to find out what makes them tick!

We ended our conversation with Sam opining that what Sri Lanka needed was an “enlightened revolution”, echoing that which is also noted by a character in his film.

Although I have reservations about the manner in which Sam’s made this film essentially for a foreign audience, and the incompatibility therein that lies with his (sincere) desire to see it used more as a tool for stimulating discussion in Sri Lanka, I look forward to Sam’s return to Sri Lanka to embark upon, as he told me, two more films that with Circles of Violence would constitute a trilogy which charted his personal explorations within Sri Lanka, in all its complexity.

The full podcast of our chat can be listened to online or downloaded from VOR Radio.

(The conversation was unplanned and recorded using my laptop’s internal mike in a cafe in Colombo and subsequently cleaned up through Levelator. As a result, the sound quality is good, but not exceptional.)