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Ruwini Jayawardana

Tharindu Lokuarchchi may be in his early thirties but he has experienced more success than people twice his age! The talented young filmmaker, a past pupil of Sripali Collage, Horana, recently bagged two awards at the Dabieshang International Student

Film Festival 2018 held in china .

Known as one of the biggest film festivals which recognises the talents of future young filmmakers, the Dabieshang International Student Film Festival sets stage for many aspiring filmmakers to showcase their work to the world. Around 10 categories comprised the film festival. Tharindu’s short film titled ‘Frozen Heart’ beat more than ten countries to win the Best Director and Best Sound Design awards at the event.

This is not the first time that the youth has been felicitated for his work. He has a long list of accolades to his name. One of his previous short films ‘Empty Cage’ won many awards: the Golden award at the Hiru Golden Film Awards 2016, the Jury award at the NEZ International Film Festival held in India in 2016, the Silver award at the Weihai International Film Festival held in China in 2016, and the Best Director award at the Sinethwing International Film Festival 2016. He has also won the Platinum award at the L A Shorts Awards 2018 and the Outstanding Achievement award at the Calcutta International Cult Film Festival held in India. His work has even been selected for the Chongqing Youth Film Festival 2018 and the 11th Shanghai Student Film Festival which will be held from June 10 to 13 in Shanghai, China.

A still from ‘Frozen Heart’

“I was a fan of Chinese films. I used to watch them during my school days. Zhang Yimou’s movies became my favourites and I began to hunt for all his movies. After sitting for my G C E Advanced Level examination I got the opportunity to study at the Meishi Film Academy in Chongqing University, China. Yimou was a visiting lecturer for the university. I was motivated by his teachings to continue in this field,” an enthusiastic Tharindu recalled his beginning.

Though he was not equipped with much theoretical knowledge at the beginning of his career, his passion for the art shaped his path. He has been studying the subject at the university since 2011. He had gotten the opportunity to take part in the Dabieshang International Student Film Festival through Meishi Film Academy.

Winning the Best Short Film award at the Hiru Golden Film Awards 2016
With the Best Director and Best Sounds awards he won at the Dabieshang International Film Festival 2018
With filmmaker Boodee Keerthisena at the Hiru Golden Film Awards 2016
Giving vote of thanks after winning the Silver Award at the Weihai International
Film Festival 2017

“My teachers encouraged me to make movies and take part in the competition. Winning two awards at the event has been amazing! Sashika Ruwan Marasingha was the sound designer for ‘Frozen Heart’. His successful 5.1 Dolby sounds suited the theme perfectly. Most of the other films which competed at the event had noisy sounds in the background but my short film had a calm and soothing tone. I believe that the jury presented the award because the background sound effects captivated their heart,” Tharindu noted adding that he is grateful to Marasingha for his expertise in making ‘Frozen Heart’ an award winning production.

The story behind ‘Frozen Heart’ emerges from a real life incident. Tharindu used to be a regular visitor to a film hall close to his home while he was still schooling. There was projector operator who was employed at the venue for a long span.

 He had died of a heart attack because the film hall had been destroyed due to a road expansion project.

“The news of his death was heartbreaking. My heart would freeze whenever I watched films after that incident. Later I was inspired to pen a script based on the incident. I even wrote the script in a film hall while watching a film. The film projects the feelings of an 80 year old worker who is spending the last moments of his job as a projector operator in a Sri Lankan film hall,” Tharindu explained.

The short film runs for 14 minutes and is centered on the projector operator’s link to the film hall. It was shot on December 3, 2017. Popular actor Mahendra Perera gives life to the protagonist.

Speaking about the challenges he faced while making ‘Frozen Heart’ Tharindu notes that the biggest obstacle he had to overcome was finding the appropriate crew for his project.

‘Frozen Heart’ was the first film project that I shot in Sri Lanka. I came across Magic Lantern (Pvt) Ltd and we made a good team. The short film was a result of all their hard work. If you do not have professional actors, editors, cameramen and other crew members at hand then the quality of the production suffers,” Tharindu opined.

He says that short films have become popular in recent years because of the hectic lifestyle lead by the public. Since filmgoers do not have time to watch a movie for a lengthy span, they tend to watch short films on their mobile phones while they are on the go.

“It is very difficult to make money out of short films. Therefore many young filmmakers do not venture into this sector. I have spent more than one million rupees in making ‘Frozen Heart’ and there is no way to recover that sum apart from winning awards and certificates. I believe that it will be more worthwhile to award cash prizes to the winners along with the certificates and awards as a means of encouraging them to take the field forward,” he said.

Tharindu notes that making movies is not a lucrative profession in Sri Lanka because many television channels have begun to telecast Indian tele serials and movies dubbed in Sinhala. “However I hope that the trend will change when quality movies make it to the limelight. For example masses flocked to theaters to watch ‘Aba’ and ‘Sooriya Arana’. The Sri Lankan film industry is in chaos today. I have a few suggestions to overcome these issues. I have been studying the nature of the film industry from 2011 to 2018 in China and hope to use that experience to enhance the quality of the films made in Sri Lanka. I have a long way to go to even come close to the standards set by film veterans like Dr Lester James Peries. Though I started making movies as a hobby to send my ideas across to the society I wish to make it my profession. My dream is to become a renowned filmmaker in Sri Lanka,” he said.

Tharindu admires Chinese film director Zhang Yi Mou’s work. He says that his movies embody universal themes and that the scenes flow naturally.

“He is very dedicated to his work and proved that you can make quality movies as well as money out of them,” Tharindu said.

Hailing from a family of three children Tharindu says that his parents have always been into arts. His two sisters are married. However no one in the family has ventured into the film industry apart from him.

Besides from making movies Tharindu is also into abstract drawing.

Queried if Sri Lankan movie buffs will get a chance to see ‘Frozen Heart’ on the wide screen Tharindu says that he would love to screen the short film in Sri Lanka if he gets the opportunity to screen it in DCP format.

“I only make movies for the big screen at the moment. My ambition is to popularize Sri Lankan movies across the globe by making quality productions,” Tharindu expressed.

He is currently planning his first feature film which he hopes to shoot in Sri Lanka.

His words of advice to budding young filmmakers is to make movies as a hobby rather than choose it as their profession.

“If you choose filmmaking as your profession then one day you will hate yourself for having made that decision. Also give something that you are satisfied with back to the society. Your work will be recognized someday if it is really good,” he concluded with a smile.


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