A week or so ago in the mail I received a guide to the 6th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art which begins at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane on the 5th of December. I received the guide as part of my Queensland Art Gallery membership, the benefits of which I don't use nearly as much as I would like.
The guide was a 'Preview/Cinefile special edition' and while perusing its pages I came across a still from a Sri Lankan film, The Forsaken Land (Jayasundar 2005), a film that I saw at the Brisbane International Film Festival.
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The production still in the guide is not cropped to the extent this picture from the APT6 site is. The trunks of the trees in the surrounding bush and the bleached sky beyond them extend out of this frame to convey a sense of isolation and claustrophobia all at once.
The recent news of Australian-bound asylum seekers from Sri Lanka had already made me think of The Forsaken Land and, in particular, I recalled two things. The first was the mood or tone of the film. It is masterful film-making, conveying life as it goes on while waiting for random, unannounced explosions of military violence. It was very affective; utterly devastating.
The second recollection is about the question and answer session with the director, Vimukthi Jayasundara, after the screening. It was an odd Q & A session to the extent that it was so forcefully chaired by the representative from the film festival. The chair was determined that the audience not read the film as political. Or, if that isn't quite correct then we were, according to his instructions, to acknowledge that it was political, but then recognise that it was 'so much more'.
In this he appeared to be fulfilling the wishes of Jayasundara, who seemed to be well and truly tired of discussing the political situation in Sri Lanka instead of the merits of his film. Part of me has some sympathy for the director's schedule here, but I wonder at the assertion of the existence of a clear distinction between content and form that such a forceful request is premised upon. For me, it was precisely the various aesthetic components of the film that so effectively conveyed the weight of living under such conditions.
I think this is an important film, one that Australians must see, and especially now. I urge you to view it as political.