Sulanga Enu Pinisa (The Forsaken Land), the Sri Lankan film that won the prestigious Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, has apparently been withdrawn from screening in Sri Lanka (second article down). The film opened on September 9, but was removed from Sri Lanka’s five main theaters by the National Film Corporation of Sri Lanka on September 20th. The director and producer of the film then requested that the movie be withdrawn from the country’s remaining theaters in protest.
While the Film Corporation claims that the film was withdrawn due to poor box office performance, the director of the film, Vimukthi Jayasundara, argues that it is a form of “unofficial censorship.” According to the BBC Sinhala Website, the film was criticized by a senior officer of the Sri Lankan Navy:
Rear Admiral Weerasekera on September 25th in an article in the Sunday ‘Divaina’ has said that film producers should be labelled as terrorists and hanged.
The Sri Lankan media watchdog Free Media Movement additionally claims that Army officials made veiled threats against Sri Lankan filmmakers critical of the ongoing ethnic conflict:
An article published in an English language daily on 14 September 2005 indicated that films by prominent directors such as Asoka Handagama, Prasanna Vithanage, Sudath Mahaadivulwewa and Vimukthi Jayasundara have been labelled “new terrorism” and “foreign funded cinema” in statements attributed to a military spokesperson.
Articles written by military and political leaders criticizing anti-war films as propaganda for separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have started to appear in mainstream newspapers.
In a meeting between two of the filmmakers and high military officials that took place subsequent to the publication of these articles, where they were asked whether they were willing to make films for military propaganda, the filmmakers were told that if war breaks out again they will face repercussions.