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Home » Countries » Sri Lanka » International campaign to defend Asoka Handagama

International campaign to defend Asoka Handagama


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An international campaign to defend artistic freedom in the wake the attacks on Asoka Handagama’s work has started. Initial supporters of the appeal (below) include the British film director Ken Loach. Watch this space daily for new developments…

The Appeal

We are dismayed at the effective banning of the film Aksharaya (Letter of Fire) in Sri Lanka and disturbed at the attacks made on its director Asoka Handagama. We are closely monitoring the events surrounding this case.

The film Aksharaya deals with the disturbing intimate relationship between mother, son and father. We understand that the Sri Lankan ‘Public Performance Control Board’ released this film for adult viewers last year deeming that the examination of the 'Oedipus Complex' in the Sri Lankan setting was valid. However, we understand that an intervention from the Ministry of Cultural Affairs blocked the film from being shown in Sri Lanka. On the 31st July this year the Supreme Court in Sri Lanka decided on a legal appeal made against this censorship. Although the ruling of the court was that Sri Lankan ‘Public Performance Control Board’ re-evaluates its earlier decision the inflammatory and prejudicial comments of the Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva is shocking to us. We think that these comments will put undue pressure on the ‘Public Performance Control Board’.

His comments, widely reported in the Sri Lankan media that the ‘film should be destroyed’ and that those who defend the film should remember ‘that they could only walk the streets because the existence of courts and that otherwise they would have to walk with guards’ is provocative and puts at risk the director Asoka Handagama and those who defend his work. The Chief Justice homes in on the fact that two of the main characters whose intimate lives are examined are members of the judiciary to state that the film should be judged not by the director or the Public Performances Control Board but by the judiciary! Does this mean that if the main characters were from the armed forces that the Army should judge the film?

The vibrant new wave of Sri Lankan filmmakers, of which Asoka Handagama is an important component, has won international prestige recently for the quality of their work. Asoka Handagama who the ‘le monde’ called ‘the Asian Fassbinder’ is a credit to all those who work in our field.

We the undersigned call on the restrictions on the film Aksharaya to be lifted and that Asoka Handagama be allowed to exercise his artistic freedom.

28.08.07