Vimukthi Jayasundara

Film Director Vimukthi Jayasundara documents testimonies while unearthing underlying characteristics of human experiences. In conversation with the only Sri Lankan recepient of the Camera d’Or award at the Cannes International Film Festival, we sought to understand his perspective on cinematography’s role in improving human conditions.

I was a curious kid who always wanted to explore the universe and its workings”. As he spoke of his early years, he said the following in despair. “When I questioned the elders as to what the purpose of life was and what it means to be alive, I was never content with the answers I received. So I decided to find the answers myself” he stated in defiance.  “As we grow, we allow social conditioning and monotonous lifestyles to devour our inherent thirst to question, which results in our acceptance of a mundane routine of inhibition”. As a peculiar child, Vimukthi did not want to conform to the recursive nature of life, which led him on a path to seek the ideal manner in which he could pursue answers to these larger questions.

Vimukthi began this journey by seeking literature on human experiences in the form of science fiction novels. “Science fiction provides a wider perception. I believe, Science and Art transcend  ‘reality’ as we know it since they are agile and open to change. During this phase of seeking knowledge, Vimukthi found cinema to be the perfect medium to discover human life beyond its preconceived restrictions. With much exuberance, he describes “When you are at a cinema, the film begins with a melody followed by the beam reflecting the white screen after which a truth begins to harmoniously unfold”. This dramatic mechanism behind the initial few seconds to the screening of a film excited Vimukthi as it symbolized his quest quite literally. So he found his passion in cinematography, where he does not need to confine himself to the system that most individuals adhere to, but discover a myriad of parallel realities.

“Cinematography paves way to create a new path or a new world. For me, it provides the power to create a discipline amongst the audience while receiving the luxury of their attention to this universe I have  created. Albeit for a limited time, I am given the opportunity to be a part of awakening their curiosity while questioning their life’s purpose”. Vimukthi reveals that the human experiences and conditions that most individuals are trapped in can be altered through powerful cinematography.  In modern times, film has become a powerful cultural tool that explores and provides insight into elements of the human condition. It reaches the spectator through images and sounds to spark the viewer’s intellect and emotions as they connect with the film, empathizing with characters and their projected life experience on screen.

“The questions I raise in my films are universal” stated Vimukthi. One such example is his film ‘The Forsaken Land’ which is woven around extracting the complexities of human life. The film won the Camera d’Or in 2005 at the Cannes International Film Festival of which Vimukthi is the only Sri Lankan director to receive it to date. In the film, he explores the psychological trauma and alienation of the protracted Sri Lankan civil war. “If you watch films that deal with war as a subject matter, they are most likely rampant with violence. However ‘The Forsaken Land’ discusses the war through inaction”.  In this film we find Vimukthi transcending language and actions to translate an experience which creates empathy within the spectator while grasping the fundamentals of human condition meticulously. We feel this work is exemplary in assisting the audience to understand alternative responses to atrocities afflicting personal lives.

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13th May, 2021 Visual Art | Conceptual