Movies Stand Off : Sri Lanka vs Hollywood – The Difference is in Centuries

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I used today to go through the collections of movies I had downloaded and kept without deleting after watching them the first time. It does not go near some of the collections I know of, but it has some decent movies. And yes, of course all of them are pirated copies, what do you expect?

Watching them and trying to decipher their messages, a sudden realization came upon me. When would Sri Lanka produce someone like Robert De Niro? When would Sri Lanka be able to create something like The God Father? When would a Sri Lankan actor direct movies to the level of Clint Eastwood? When would Sri Lanka reach Hollywood’s 1931 by producing movies with strong messages like All Quiet on the Western Front? When would Sri Lankan movie industry start adopting good books in to movies like Of Mice and Men or when would good books be written to create great movies like 2000:A Space Odyssey? Will contemporary Sri Lanka produce someone legendary like Tarantino?

To make it short, is money the only thing that holds Sri Lankan movie industry from creating good movies?

Capitalism is criticized for destroying values of a society, reducing aesthetic abilities of humans and killing Art by making everything a commodity. It is true that Socialist societies have produced some of the best works of Art in the recent history -it has even given rise to its own paradigm of Socialist Realism-, however neo-liberalist Capitalism too has not lived up to its evil character as well. Hollywood has been successful in expanding and nurturing really good artists in its giant empire at the same time living up to the very Capitalistic values the American state is bound with. True that it has a rich investor base and a technology way ahead of most other industries, but they are only partially contributing factors to its success. The other half is the creative workforce it attracts. Neo-liberalist Capitalism has facilitated the creative to materialize their ideas in to works of art, instead of killing them.

Sri Lanka, even though officially a socialist republic, follows Capitalist ideas of the market and the other sectors of the society. It has created some of the great minds in South Asia with regard to the movie industry in the past but not anymore, not at least in the mainstream. The movies that provide a great ROI are crap like “Mahindagamanaya” or “Bindu“, in contrast to a history of work like “Nidhanaya” or “Hansa Wilak“. Movies like “Akasa Kusum” sometimes hit certain populist nerve points and create waves but those waves are not followed. Post-war movie wave has been at best “shit”. Even greatly hailed Matha doesn’t resist the temptation of copying D-Day invasion shots from countless war movies of Hollywood. The best actor award is given to Ranjan Ramanayaka, most probably for his roles like “Leader” or “One Shot“.

The alternative and the radical streams do sometimes produce great work, but are hardly noticed by the layperson. Ashoka Handagama had a great line of work, with a consistent philosophy building up right until he had to back down and produce Vidhu. “Sulaga Enu Pinisa” is a fantastic piece of work, which got banned like the rest of the others. There is a growing short-film ecosystem that usually goes unheard by the common people, people who would otherwise see something like “Ali Patiyo Oyai Mamai“.

The truth is that today’s Sri Lanka is not capable of producing the artistic wisdom that would both salvage the dead industry and produce great work at the same time. The great work are appealing only to the alternative loving niche, while the works for the layperson are utter bullshit.

Capitalism in Sri Lanka, like someone I know used to say, is not complete. It is a freak fusion of Feudalistic values and Capitalistic control.  The people still live in a Feudal society while governance follows theoretical Capitalism.  Liberal thinking is frowned upon by the “Nationalist” majority and almost always labeled as “Western”, even by the “educated” lot. Socialist ideas do not exist, instead the term is used as a synonym for Nationalism.

This kind of a society would not produce a Tarantino or a Kubrick. This society will never be able to create a market for something like Apocalypse Now. The best of the actors will be people like Ranjan Ramanayaka, and will never reach people like Al Pacino.

The movies will always be cheap rip offs of the Bollywood and Kollywood work and be colorful and vibrant as they are, with at least three interrupting unrelated crap songs sung by the protagonist. Investors will never put money in something like the couple Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima, simply because they do not entertain the war-crazed majority. The person who would produce something like The God Father would not live a healthy life, because government would be portrayed attached to the underworld. This is the difference between the Sri Lankan movie industry and the Hollywood. This is why this post will sound nostalgic.

We would always have to look up to the Hollywood and the European movie industry to provide us with good art.

urgh… I forgot this one crucial fact that would’ve saved this long rant from being typed. Sri Lanka only produces movies for babies. No adult subjects will be discussed by them. The whole country is one big nursery now.

5 thoughts on “Movies Stand Off : Sri Lanka vs Hollywood – The Difference is in Centuries

  1. Question and answer!

    If you are a regular reader of the cult blog, There was a little piece saying even the amateur producers and directors in Hollywood know how to keep the movie inline. They are rich with story telling. But here even the ones who dominate the existing industry are lack of that spirit!

    I think now they’ve found a way to success. Bringing back all the historic literature into the theater. Non patriots won’t even notice them in the future. But all the others will die to watch them. Since they just expect another tele drama, they’ll satisfy enough!

    • Exactly. The movies that are being produced now run by superficial crap like patriotism, or shallow realities of war and peace.

      Your comment about amateurs in Hollywood reminded me of this story. This is how much criticized Capitalism enables creativity to become master pieces that the majority can and will enjoy.

      The problem, to summerize, is I think our society being politicized too much, to every minute unnecessary detail.

  2. 100% agreed. Also the SL industry never produces diverse themes like in Hollywood. We have to watch the same story over and over. I also thing looking into hollywood instead of Bollywood would be the best move as the Bollywood people themselves copy from hollywood.

  3. Very insightful article. On paper, Sri Lanka is a “socialist” country; but as you said, in reality, it’s still rooted in feudalism.

    If you want authentic, sri lankan movies, you’ll have to go back to the 70’s (Bambaru Awith, Nidhanaya etc) Most movies today are shit like “Mahindagamnaya” etc.