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Sister productions and Survivance
DEMONS IN PARADISE
A film by Jude Ratnam
“What do the dead ask? That we think about them? That we liberate them by bringing the guilty to judgment? Or do they want us to understand what took place?” — Rithy Panh, The Elimination
In 1983, Sri Lanka was torn apart by riots targeting the Tamil minority, sparking a war that lasted almost 30 years and left indelible scars on the country.
Filmmaker Jude Ratnam was five years old when he fled the Sinhalese-dominated south to go to the Tamil strongholds in the north by train. But there was no sanctuary to be found as the Tamil rebellion descended into deadly in-fighting between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, known as the Tamil Tigers, and other factions.
Now, the return of Ratnam’s ex-guerrilla uncle from overseas exile provides the occasion for a reopening of old wounds and an impassioned consideration of what went wrong.
For the first time, a Tamil filmmaker reflects upon the experience and impact of three decades of civil war from the inside. [Al Jazeera]
I was born and raised in Sri Lanka. Civil war is all that I have ever known.
Currently in my country, more than seven years after the end of the war, the victors are celebrated, general amnesia is encouraged, and silence is imposed. I want to break that silence and help the scars of recent events to heal instead of grow deeper, in an attempt to provide a glimpse of hope for the future.
In Sri Lanka, as in countless conflicts, I see the civil war as the direct result of the need to protect one's identity, and the fear of losing it. However, in a post-colonial, globalized context, this is a very complex thing to do. The complexity of the conflict in Sri Lanka has taught me that "fear of the other will eventually lead to fear of oneself". We have paid a huge price to learn this lesson. I want my film to capture this complex and paradoxical human condition, and to reveal the resulting vicious cycle of violence and xenophobia that is plaguing my country.
I am confident that my film will not only be relevant to Sri Lanka, but also to most of the countries grappling with the questions of the "other", the "outsider" and "foreigners".
This will be the first documentary to come out of Sri Lanka about the war with an insider's point of view, unlike the recent controversial films which were made by people from outside of Sri Lanka. I am the first Tamil director to make a film from within the country. Ironically, my experience of being displaced as a child and as an adult, and my resulting knowledge of both the Tamil and Sinhalese communities, made this film possible. I speak both languages fluently. I have not been tagged as a militant. However, I needed to act quickly: not only because of the increasingly tense political climate, but also because the film I wanted to make was only possible while the red train still exists, as it is so intrinsically linked to the complex past of the country and the fears of all communities. Its removal was highly symbolic.
By making this film, I know that I will have to face harsh, perhaps even hateful criticism from both communities. The Sinhalese will claim that I am betraying my country by stirring up a past that is best forgotten. On the other side, the Tamils will insist that I betrayed our cause by revealing the atrocities committed by the Tamil Tigers. Nevertheless, in each community – and especially amongst the young generation that has only known war – there are those who want to know the complexity of our history and overcome the accumulated hatred. It is also because I feel the extent to which fear has destroyed the lives of three generations that I want to make this film – in order to avoid a fourth generation being trapped in the snare of fear.
I am committed to making this film while being fully aware of the risks it entails because I am deeply convinced of its necessity.
Director: Jude Ratnam
Script / Dialogue: Jude Ratnam, Isabelle Marina
Film Editor: Jeanne Oberson
Producer: Julie Paratian, assisted by Astrig Chandeze-Avakian
Director of Photography: Chinthaka Somakeerthi, Mahinda Abeysinghe
Sound editor: Wickrama Senevirathne, H.M Indika Sisira Kumara, Benoît Gargonne
Re-recording mixer: Jean-Guy Veran, Mactari
Music: Rajkumar Dharshan
Colorist: Steven Le Guellec, Stuff Movie
Graphic Design: Simon Gréau
Partners: CNC, PROCIREP-ANGOA, IDFA Bertha Fund, Région Île-de-France, Région Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Asian Cinema Fund, Cinéma du Réel – Paris-DOC-SCREENINGS
Production: Sister productions (France), Kriti a Work of Art (Sri Lanka)
Production year: 2017
World Sales: Upside Distribution