I am a scientist by profession who has been working for the Biotechnology industry close to 30 years. Yet, I love art, especially visual storytelling, as well as writing, and poetry. I inherited the arty side of mine from my father. My father was a Sinhala and English teacher, but was known as a poet back in Sri Lanka, who was closely involved with “Hela Hawla”. To me, visual storytelling is a powerful medium to convey messages to the public. I experimented this medium with the movie, “Yal Devi”. “Yal Devi” was my debut, which I consider as an experiment that I tried out with bunch of friends, here in Los Angeles. “Yal Devi” is considered as the very first film made and screened by a Sri Lankan expatriate in the USA. “The Letter” is my second film. Both films carry a common underlying theme, the ethnic conflict of Sri Lanka. Several of my friends asked me why am I stuck with this bitter subject. My reply to them was that I believe in racial harmony in Sri Lanka.
Why did I screen “The Letter” movie to the Sri Lankan community here in Los Angeles?
A very simple and straightforward answer is that this is a Sri Lankan film produced by me with a story that brings nostalgia to any Sri Lankan expatriate community, including our very own here in Los Angeles. I am also very pleased to have my daughter, Madara Jayasena, to be introduced to the Sri Lankan community as a talented actress who successfully played the leading female role in “The Letter” movie. “The Letter” was nominated under the category of “Mosaic of Sri Lankan New Cinema” for 2015 Colombo International Film Festival in association with Okinawa International Movie Festival. It was screened at the Regal Cinema in Colombo for the festival on November 9, 2015. I think Los Angeles deserves to be the place to have the world premiere of “The Letter”. It is an honor for me to present “The Letter” to the Sri Lankan community in Los Angeles as its very first screening outside of Sri Lanka.
“The Letter” was not only filmed in Sri Lanka but also completed all its postproduction processes there. It is a Sinhala and Tamil film capturing both war and postwar era of the brutal civil war of Sri Lanka. The story portrays a relationship evolved between a Tamil village girl and an injured army soldier. There were two main reasons for me to undertake this project. First, I liked the script and messages it conveys in a subtle manner to the audience. It certainly leaves foods for thought in the minds of the audience. Second, almost everyone in the cast and crew was a newcomer to the film industry. I saw the talent in all departments. I believe that the letter opened the door to at least several of them in their journey towards achieving their dreams.
We didn’t build sets for the film. The bitter and the unfortunate truth is that the sets that we used for “The Letter” film were the ruins or the scars of the brutal civil war that left in what was used to be the war zone in Sri Lanka. Though the story of the letter film is fictional, it could have very well been one such possible and true story out of hundreds or even thousands that must have really happened but never got exposed during or after the war.
The day of the movie screening…
The world premiere of “The Letter” movie was held on March 12th 2007 at “Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre” in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles with stunning success. It was almost a full house with an enthusiastic audience, including several well-known Sri Lankan expatriates who were and still in the film industry. I noticed several Indian and American nationalities attended the event too. I am grateful to the Sri Lankan community here in Los Angeles. Many members of the community voluntarily publicized the screening event in social media, as well as sending emails to their friends and families. I must mention how lucky we are to have such a supporting Sri Lankan community in Los Angeles. Our community extends a great deal of support for any event or production that we undertake here in Los Angeles. We are indeed unique in that respect, compared to other Sri Lankan expatriate communities any where in the world.
As anticipated, the story line of the film left a lot to think about among the audience. I have received many phone calls just mentioning that aspect. It has become a film that kept haunting in your mind. People have already started talking about “The Letter” in a very positive way. As such, I was asked for a re-screen of the film here in greater Los Angeles area. Stay tuned..
To me, “The Letter” is a step forward from “Yal Devi”, and I look forward to challenging myself even more in my next production.
Written By: Dr Sumedha Jayasena
Photographed by: Moran Perera