KALĀ + | Screenings

April 4, 2024

In keeping with the platform’s intention to build collaborations with practitioners, representatives and institutions across the island and the South Asian region, The series KALĀ+ featured talks, workshops and screenings both at the Lionel Wendt Art Centre and with leading representatives, institutions and individuals from the Sri Lankan art ecosystem. These events were curated with focus on building the visibility of developments of the arts locally while also focused on accessibility for youth, students, enthusiasts and patrons. Our objective annually is to develop and grow via these collaborations extensively.

KALĀ+ had the pleasure of hosting two documentary screenings at the Lionel Wendt Art Centre.

The Song of Ceylon directed by Basil Wright and produced by John Grierson for the Ceylon Tea Propaganda Board is regarded as one of the most important British documentaries of the 1930. Following a premiere at the Film Society in November 1934 and commercial release, Song of Ceylon won first place in the documentary class, and the ‘Prix du Gouvernement’ for the best film in all classes, at the Brussels International Film Festival of 1935.

In 1934, the British director Basil Wright associated Wendt with the development of his documentary Song of Ceylon. Described by Wright as one of the six best photographers in the world, Wendt was not only the narrator of the film; his eye as a photographer and his in-depth knowledge of the country and its culture were an essential contribution to what was considered a major documentary. In an interview published in 1949 in Mosquito, Basil Wright paid tribute to Lionel Wendt: “Without him, I don’t think the Song of Ceylon could have been what it is. For here was a man who knew Ceylon as few men did, and he was in touch with the avant-garde cinema of those days and he knew what the documentary people were doing. As a matter of fact, the only two people I met in Ceylon who knew anything about films then were Wendt and George Keyt.”

The collaboration between Wendt and Wright continued after the shooting of Song of Ceylon, with the photographer coming to London several times to become Wright’s assistant in the company he had founded. Wendt was the first Ceylonese to establish a relationship between photography and film when the latter developed on the island during the 1930s.

Kannan Arunasalam’s ‘Anatomy of a Protest’ is a documentary film that follows the raw intensity of
Sri Lanka’s historic Aragalaya movement – from its diffuse beginnings to occupying the Presidential Secretariat and the aftermath – from the perspective of the activists involved. Can their fight against a powerful dynasty overcome a system determined to prevail?

KALĀ played host to one of the film’s first screenings in Sri Lankan and was followed by a panel discussion featuring artists Muvindu Binoy and Minal Wickramatunga.

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