Vimukthi Jayasundara

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Vimukthi Jayasundara
Born Ratnapura, Sri Lanka
Nationality Sri Lankan
Education Mahinda College, Galle, Film and Television Institute of India
Le Fresnoy, Studio national des arts contemporains-France
Occupation Film director and Visual Artist

Vimukthi Jayasundara is an award-winning Sri Lankan film director, screenwriter and visual artist. His first feature, The Forsaken Land (2005) won the Caméra d'Or at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, making him the only Sri Lankan to win the award. He followed this with Between Two Worlds (2009) which got nominated for the Golden Lion at the Venice International Film Festival 2009. Vimukthi’s third feature, Mushrooms (2011) was filmed in India and went on to be selected for the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes Film Festival 2011. In 2012, the Jeonju International Film Festival invited him as one of three international film directors to produce a film for the Jeonju Digital Project 2012 for which he made Light in Yellow Breathing Space.

Early life[edit]

His father was a Science Teacher and Vimukthi’s early move to Galle was a result of his parents temporarily separating, thereby forcing him to live with his grandmother. But a wave of ethnic unrest, destruction, bloodshed and chaos shrouded the country in darkness. Starting with the Black July Massacre in ’83 and going up to the JVP Insurrection in ’89, the entire country descended into pandemonium and this disrupted daily life the island-over.

The riots were especially prominent in Galle, being a Southern JVP stronghold and to get away from the violence, Vimukthi would escape into the tranquillity of the forests and wander around by himself. And when not doing that, he would hold up in the house and passionately delve into books. This passage of time was the anvil on which many elements we see in his films were forged.

Reading led him to thinking and this led to an insatiable interest in media. To quench this thirst, Vimukthi journeyed to Colombo every weekend, to attend a class for a Diploma in Journalism, which was the only one of its kind at the time. At this point, he was still in school and had to lie about his age to be eligible to enrol in the diploma program. During this time, he volunteered for a Marxist print publication called Hiru where he mainly wrote on cinema and art.

He spent of lot of time walking around Colombo, going from cultural centre to cultural centre watching whatever films that we being screened and it was at this point, he landed his first job at Lowe Lintas Worldwide, an advertising agency.


He attended the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune, India and after returning to Sri Lanka, began work on his first film, The Land of Silence (2001), a production that took 3 years to complete. The Land of Silence was a documentary in black and white about the victims of civil war in Sri Lanka. The film was made using cinematographic equipment from the 1960s and interspersed with occasional dialogues deliberately not translated but relayed by a background commentary. The film transforms images of the present into ghostly archives. The Land of Silence strips away the glory of war and puts a monochrome microscope on soldiers knocked into a mundane and dreary existence half the people they were before putting on the uniform. The documentary was selected by several festivals including Marseille, Rotterdam and Berlin.

Following The Land of Silence, Vimukthi received a scholarship at Le Fresnoy-Studio National des Arts from the French Government and the Sri Lanka National Film Corporation on the recommendation of Dr. Lester James Peiris and Dr. Tissa Abeysekera. At the Le Fresnoy he studied under Tsai Ming-liang, Jean-Marie Straub, Jean-Luc Godard and Eugene Greene. Following his time at Fresnoy, he directed a short film Empty for Love – which was shot in France and Sri Lanka. The film was produced by Le Fresnoy and it was officially selected to the Cannes film festival in 2003 and it won the Best Director Award at the Novo Mesto International Short Film festival – Slovenia in 2003 at the same year he became a resident at the Cinéfondation of the Cannes Film Festival.

The Forsaken Land[edit]

In 2005 he directed his first feature, The Forsaken Land (Sinhala: Sulanga Enu Pinisa). It won the 2005 Cannes Film Festival Camera d'Or.[1] He was the first Sri Lankan to win the prestigious award. The film is minimalist, constructed with sparse dialogue and a haunting tableaux of an isolated desolate rural landscape. The film is considered by many international critics to be one of the most important cinematic statements to emerge from Asia in the last ten years.[citation needed] This film won the Jury Prize at the New Delhi Osian’s-Cinefan international Film Festival in India, 2005 and also won Golden Harvest for the Best Film at the Bangkok world Film festival in Thailand, 2006. The Forsaken Land was co-produced by Unlimited, Les Films de l'Etranger, Onoma and Arte France Cinema, in association with Film Council Productions (Sri Lanka) - with Philippe Avril as executive producer. The Forsaken Land was released in France by Tadrart Films (French title: La terre abandonnée) and in United States by New Yorker. The film is available on DVD in America and France (MK2 vidéo) as well.h

Between Two Worlds[edit]

Ahasin wetei - Between Two Worlds, his second feature film, was produced by Les Films Hatari and Unlimited, co-produced by Arte France Cinéma and Film Council Productions and Anura Silva in Sri Lanka. The cast includes Chinese actress Huang Lu, Thusitha Laknath, Kaushalya Fernando and Steve de la Zilwa. Cinematography was by Channa Deshapriya, and original music was by Lakshman Joseph De Saram. This film was officially selected for the Competition at the 66 Venice International film festival in 2009 and was nominated for the prestigious Golden Lion. also it got nominated for Achievement in Directing at the Asia Pacific screen Awards - Australia in 2009. At the Barcelona Asian film festival in Spain, 2010, this film won the Best Asian Film Award. Between Two Worlds was invited to more than 100 film festivals around the world.

Mushrooms aka Chatrak[edit]

Jayasundara's 3rd feature Chatrak (Mushrooms, presented at section Directors fortnight - Cannes Film Festival 2011) continue to explore South Asian psyches contorted by massive social forces, but this time he makes a significant leap north. This is his first film set in India. Rahul (Sudip Mukherjee) is a Bengali archi­tect returning to Kolkata after years of work in Dubai, where he managed a huge con­struction site. Awaiting him is his beautiful girlfriend Paoli (Paoli Dam), who lives alone and far from her family. But Rahul’s seemingly successful life is overshadowed by the search for his brother (Sumeet Thakur), said to now be mad and living in the forest, where he sleeps in the trees. Despite appearances, the two brothers may have much in common. Part surreal song of nature, part muffled cry of urban despair, Mushrooms hovers like a dream. Jayasundara blends minimal­ist aesthetics with a thoughtful, melancholy tone to evoke his characters’ alienation from their surroundings. In the city, constant construction reflects the social convulsions taking place. In the woods, the arrival of a European soldier manifests the feeling of a natural environment unsettled and compro­mised by violent order. Jayasundara’s films can never be entirely defined by their plots. Encouraging each viewer to meet him partway, he crafts his narratives as a series of questions and his characters as open forms. Working outside his home country for the first time, and aided by the capable Sri Lankan cinematographer Channa Deshapriya, this unique filmmaker has brought a fascinating visitor’s eye to contemporary West Bengal (Cameron Bailey, Co-Director, Toronto International film Festival)

His work speaks from the borders: those that separate a country from another, modern cities from ancestral land, and the threshold between the living and the dead. And from there, it erases the borders between fiction and documentary, between cinema and visual arts, expanding the very limits of filmmaking, generating hypnotic visions, pictures of great plastic beauty, and situations that go from the surreal to the humoristic.

The most important film event in Chile, Valdivia International Film Festival, is the first film festival to program a retrospective of films by Vimukthi Jayasundara.


  • Thibiri Dela (1996) (short)
  • The Land of Silence (2002) (short)
  • Empty for Love (2003) (short)
  • The Forsaken Land (2005)
  • Between Two Worlds (2009)
  • Mushrooms (2011)
  • 60 Seconds of Solitude in Year Zero (2011) (segment)
  • Light in the yellow breathing space (2012) (short)
  • Through the Windshield - (in preparation)

Memento international - world sales Company based in Paris - announced that, as well as Between Two Worlds, their Label Artscope is now representing Vimukthi Jayasundara’s debut feature The Forsaken Land along with his two renowned shorts The Land Of Silence (2001) and Empty For Love (2003). Mushrooms (2011) is represented by Austrian Film distributor, eastwest-distribution.


  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Forsaken Land". Retrieved 2009-12-12. 

External links[edit]

GREAT HELMER HOPES FOR THE RENEWAL OF CINEMA By Gilles Jacob-President festival de Cannes