A young Sri Lankan refugee’s uncertain journey across three countries takes centre stage in an upcoming Indo-French-Canadian film. Titled The Sunshine, the film will be directed by poet-filmmaker Leena Manimekalai, and stars Shobasakthi aka Anthonythasan, who played the lead in Jacques Audiard’s Palm d’ Or winning Dheepan.
Co-produced by SR Prabhu of Dream Warriors Pictures, The Sunshine was the only one from Tamil Nadu among the 19 projects selected from all over Asia, to be pitched at the NFDC Film Bazaar held on the sidelines of the recently concluded International Film Festival Of India in Goa. “I am very excited about the outcome in Goa Film Bazaar. I hope this would open more doors for Independent filmmakers from Tamilnadu,” said Leena.
The Sunshine is centred around a young refugee who flees from the war-torn North Lanka and embarks on a perilous journey through India, Nepal and Thailand towards an uncertain destination, leaving his childhood sweetheart in his motherland. Anthonydasan, who is also one of the co-writers of the film, had starred in Leena’s debut feature film, Sengadal, too.
The film is scheduled to go on floors sometime in 2017. “I have started the pre-production works. It’s a massive project and the shoot will happen in five countries,” said Leena.
Leena is known for her hard-hitting documentaries on subjects ranging from feminism and Dalit issues to the plight of refugees and fishermen in the Palk Strait. Her first feature film, Sengadal (Dead Sea) was released in 2011. Based on true stories, Sengadal is about the fishermen in Dhanushkodi, the fishing hamlet which is the closest Indian point from Sri Lanka. The film ran into trouble with the censor board which initially refused a clearance certificate for the film, stating that it made offensive political remarks about the governments of Sri Lanka and India. Manimekalai fought the case legally for several months and finally got it cleared without any cuts.
Leena’s 2013 documentary, White Van Stories, dealt with the subject of enforced disappearances caused by Sri Lankan civil war. For the documentary, which was premiered on Channel 4, she interviewed people who lost their family members and filmed the protests in in Jaffna and Colombo, carried out by the families of the vanished men and women.