22nd May2018

Interview: Director Asoka Handagama on ‘Let Her Cry’

by Philip Rogers

Let Her Cry is a new drama from writer-director Asoka Handagama, which has been selected to play at the Southend Film Festival on Sunday 27th May. I got a chance to ask Asoka Handagama a few questions about his inspirations for writing the script, his favorite scenes to shoot and how changes in attitude of Sri Lankan’s have affected him as a filmmaker.


What can we expect from the film Let Her Cry?

I really don’t know. I made a film about a fantasy of a middleclass man who wants to escape from his bored, monotonous life. It is up to the audience to read it on their own way. I have come across during the time of its screenings in international festivals and in domestic cinemas, different approaches to read and analyse it. These readings were very interesting. Some were beyond my imagination and understanding. As a policy I do not respond to those, even though some readings are totally outside the scope of the movie.

So, if I come back to your questions, you can reinvent it when you watch it. In that sense you can expect anything that you want.

What were your inspirations when writing the original script?

These days, when the social media invades the boundaries of someone’s personal life, we come across stories of elderly people having relationships with young girls. Their journeys more often come to disastrous ends. Social life in contemporary societies is driven by desire not by morals. You meet someone who you don’t know and yet who strikes you, attracts you, enters your life and disturbs the existing equilibrium. So, I felt like making a movie on this.

What were your influences for the look and the style of the film?

There are so many films made on this subject. Most of them approaches an end with a kind of ‘Fatal Attraction’. But beyond a certain extent, my film explores a different option. Therefore, what I really wanted was not to follow the look and the style of most of those films. I trusted on my own way of letting the story flow linearly within a limited space, with repetitive sequences with slight changes as it progresses.

Were there any elements in the final film which were different from your original script?

Other than some scenes that I thought were unnecessary and iterative, the things that were in the original script are there in the final version. Opening scene with the windscreen was not there in the script. It was only at the end. After the first edit, I thought of bringing it to the beginning, keeping only a trimmed version of it at the end.

What was one of your favourite scenes to shoot in the film?

Final scene at the temple. It was difficult and challenging because such a scene to take place at a temple premises in a movie set is not morally acceptable. I had to shoot it carefully without disturbing the environment. It took whole night to finish it.

The relationship in the film may have been seen as controversial from the Sri Lankan film board previously and may not have been deemed suitable for distribution. However, following the changes in recent years the film has been able to be released without issue. Do you think the changes in attitude towards film has allowed you to develop more freely as a writer and director?

Yes. We enjoy a relatively a greater freedom than what was before. By the late 90s and in early 2000, film makers in Sri Lanka were enjoying a great freedom of cinematic expression. We could make movies on controversial themes and there were no institutional barriers for them. Thanks to that freedom, we could make movies which were attracted by prestigious international film festivals. Unfortunately, severe censorship was introduced and practiced with the escalation of war towards the second half of the first decade of 21st century. Some films, including my ones were banned. We had to retreat. This badly affected the progress of our cinema, in the international festival circuit. Now the things are better.

Do you have any new projects which you are working on?

Yes. After this, I have finished the production of an omnibus movie titled ‘Her. Him. The Other’ in collaboration with two of my colleagues Vimukthi (Jayasundara) and Prasanna (Vithanage). And just finished my own movie ‘Asandhimitta’ which is yet to have its world premiere in a festival.

If someone is looking to write and direct their first film, what advice would you give them?

What matters in film making (or any form of art) for me is your imagination. Equally important is how you read your society, and what you get in that reading and as a result of that reading what is developed within you that you feel like sharing with your audience.

If you have something to say and if you have your imagination to figure out how to say it, unlike in the past, there are ample opportunities to express yourself audio-visually. I didn’t use the word cinema because you may not be able to release it in a cinema circuit, but there are other platforms to exhibit it.

Let Her Cry will be playing at the Southend Film Festival on Sunday 27th May at 8.30pm. For more information on the event and to purchase tickets for the Southend Film Festival please see the website for details: https://www.southendfilmfestival.com


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