Peace and Conflict

The Art of Forgetting by Lisa Kois – Director’s Introduction and Previews

About the Film
Filmed in Sri Lanka between 2002 and 2005, the art of forgetting attempts to shatter the silence and statistical anonymity that characterizes dominant discourses of war by highlighting the personal stories of the people whose lives have been altered by war and political violence. The film is structured around a journey from the northern-most tip of Sri Lanka to the southern-most and uses this journey to loosely trace Sri Lanka’s overlapping histories of conflict in both the North and South of the country through the stories of people met along the way.

The film is not intended to explain, analyze or provide a comprehensive history of Sri Lanka’s recent past. Volumes of written text have been produced that seek to do just that. There are many stories that are not overtly told… the story of the East, the story of the IPKF, the story of 1983, the story of Colombo, the story of the border villages, to name a few. Thus, from a historical perspective, the art of forgetting may be seen as incomplete. But to focus on what is not there is to miss what is. For within the particular lies the general. Within one story of loss is contained a chorus of suffering, strength and survival.

The art of forgetting grew out of a three-year collaborative documentation and documentary film project through which I, and my colleague Iffat Fatima, with the help of countless others, explored and documented the ways in which people remember past violence. Throughout the project, we sought to create space for people to tell their stories: space that has been fundamentally missing in Sri Lanka. Through ongoing dialogues and largely unstructured interviews in which we invited people to tell us their stories, the project has attempted to engage in “the intentional act of remembering,” as termed by Alex Boraine, former deputy chair of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Both the process of documentation and the film itself seek to open space to remember – space within the public discourse… within peace processes, policy debates, and negotiations… within our collective conscious… within our hearts and our minds.

With the art of forgetting, I challenge those who advocate amnesia: those who say the past is better left in the past. Because the past is the present. It is the here and now. One needs only to read the headlines to know… or to speak to the newly widowed, the daily orphaned. It is this moment and the next, reinvented again and again. It is the legacy we leave our children. If we keep the past buried it will only rot and fester further. To reveal it, to give it light and air to breath, to expose it to the elements – the wind and the rain – is to free ourselves from its stranglehold.

Adapted from “The art of forgetting: A facilitation guide” by Lisa Kois (FLICT 2007)

About the Clips
Two short segments of the art of forgetting have been made available on Groundviews, along with the film credits. Although these segments will introduce you to the style and some of the themes of the art of forgetting, they are, in many ways, unrepresentative of the film itself. The essence of the film is the personal narratives of suffering, subversion and survival for which the film is a vehicle. I have refrained from including people’s stories online as I believe the nature and content of the stories demand that they are treated with the utmost sensitivity, which may not be possible in such a forum. The film, however, is available for distribution. Please contact Perera Hussein Publishing House at [email protected] for information on how to purchase a copy of the art of forgetting in Sri Lanka or abroad. English, Sinhala and Tamil versions are available.

Preview 1

Higher quality preview available here.

Preview 2

Higher quality preview available here.

Film credits

Higher quality version available here.