Sanjiva Wijesinha -writer and physician

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Deepa Mehta’s New Film Funny Boy

  • World Movie premiere on Netflix on 10th December
  • TV Broadcast premiere on CBC (Canada) on 4th December
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Brandon Ingram (Arjie) and Rehan Mudannayake (Shehan) in a still from the movie

Watch Video: Deepa Mehta talks about her new film Funny Boy

Oscar nominated Canadian movie director Deepa Mehta’s adaptation of award winning author Shyam Selvadurai‘s book Funny Boy is set to hit the screen next month – and become one of this year’s most rewarding new movies.

It has already been selected as Canada’s submission for the Best International Film category for the 2021 Oscars

Mehta, creator of (among other well known movies) the acclaimed trilogy Earth (1998), Fire (1996) and Water (2005) as well as the adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children (2012) is no stranger to awards. Her 2005 movie Water was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. 

Funny Boy is a coming-of-age movie that is an exploration of identities, both sexual and ethnic – and also the response to intolerance – set against the backdrop of the turbulence and ethnic violence of Sri Lanka in the nineteen eighties.

Funny Boy won the Smith Books/Books in Canada First Novel Award in 1995 and the Lambda Award for Best Gay Men’s Fiction in 1996. Shortlisted for Canada’s Giller Prize in 1994, it was also selected in 1996 as an American Library Association Notable Book.

Selvaduriai was born and grew up in Sri lanka but now lives in Canada. He wrote Funny Boy – a coming of age novel that is, in effect, a semi-autobiographical account of growing up gay in Sri Lanka. It is the story of a young boy Arjie who, growing up in a conservative middle class Tamil family in Sri Lanka, is made fun of for his ‘girly’ ways in his childhood. Later on in his teenage years, he is tormented by his peers for his sexual preference and is even rebuked by the family for going against the norms of society although he always has the support of his young aunt Radha – until she is packed off overseas after an arranged marriage that is forced on her to break off her love affair with a Sinhalese boy.

As the story unfolds, one sees the growing ethnic intolerance and hostility between the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils living on this small island nation – which culminated in the ethnic violence of 1983.

Shot on location last year in Sri Lanka, the screenplay for the movie was jointly written by Mehta and Selvadurai. The dialogue is in English, Sinhalese and Tamil (with English subtitles as required). Its evocative musical score was composed by three-time Oscar-winner Howard Shore.

Produced by David Hamilton and Hussain Amarshi, Funny Boy stars Brandon Ingram in his first feature film as the movie’s central character Arjie – together with Nimmi Harasgama, Ali Kazmi, Agam Darshi, Seema Biswas and Shivantha Wijesinha. The role of Arjie as a small child is ably played by Arush Nand.

The movie is scheduled to air exclusively in Canada on CBC TV on Friday, December 4th at 8pm (8:30 NT) – and thereafter stream (for free!) on CBC Gem. This screening is the result of a partnership between CBC and Telefilm Canada,

Describing Funny Boy as ‘a quintessesntially Canadian story’ Mehta says in this video, where she was interviewed by Joanna Schneller as part of the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival, “For me, Funny Boy is actually not a very funny film.”

“This story could have only be written by a Sri Lankan who had emigrated to Canada,” she says. “The objectivity that Canada provides, through which we can look at our respective homelands, is I think this country’s greatest gift. It’s what I hope will give us a global understanding of the nature of the ‘other.'”

The movie rights for the United States have been acquired by Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY Releasing who will handle worldwide distribution through Netflix. 

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This entry was posted on November 1, 2020 by in Opinion, Shivantha Wijesinha and tagged , , .
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