Hectic times for film maker Kasinathar Gnanadas from Sri Lanka and his multi-ethnic film team: Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims work peacefully side by side to make a TV drama about their country's civil war.
Gnanadas (39) is co-founder and coordinator of ScriptNet SL. This organisation has worked since 2002 to build up the television and film industry in Sri Lanka. "The media primarily offer imports and imitations of popular Indian Bollywood productions. We want to counter this with high-quality, authentic stories. To achieve that goal, we offer training in theory and practice for oncoming scenario writers, camera operators, sound technicians, directors and producers. We also stimulate cooperation and dialogue between film makers of various ethnicities," Gnanadas explains. As a Tamil, he is an outsider in the national film industry, dominated in Sri Lanka by Sinhalese. The continuing civil war in the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka has torn these two groups of the population apart.
War, reconciliation and peace were the main themes of six short films in 2004. Gnanadas is currently working on a fourteen-episode television series. His production team has 24 members. "A colourful cultural mix of professionals, including Sinhalese director Delon Weerasinghe, and inexperienced youngsters who were selected after responding to ads in newspapers and on the radio. They received brief training in camera operation, for example, or sound and make-up.
The scripts for the drama series were written by Muslims, Sinhalese and Tamils, and are about the effects of the civil war on everyday life in Sri Lanka," he explains on one of the last shooting days.
Gnanadas hopes to present his TV series to the media of Sri Lanka in December 2007. "That is when we start to negotiate the price and the broadcast dates. My personal hope is that ScriptNet SL negotiates a deal with TV station Rupavahini, of the national SLRC network. Many people watch that channel. The political sensitivity of our TV drama, however, makes it doubtful whether it will be shown in prime time."
ScriptNet SL is supported by Hivos, Unesco, the Commonwealth Media Development Fund and the British Council.