Images of Hope

In House of My Fathers, Sri Lanka’s Suba Sivakumaran comes across as a young film-maker who correctly reads the political and poetic pulse of her people and translates it to celluloid.

By Noor Javed Sadiq | May 2020

Suba Sivakumaran has emerged as a female director and a promising filmmaker in the Sri Lankan film industry. She blazed the trail by winnng the Most Promising Filmmaker Award at the Seventh Derana Film Awards 2019, for her debut feature film ‘House of My Fathers’, in the Cinema of Tomorrow category. The film is about Sri Lanka surviving its 30 years long civil war in a poetic, allegoric and symbolic way. The story and fine execution make it hard to believe that Suba Sivakumaran calls herself a novice at filmmaking. Her realistic magical narrative of storytelling and mesmerizing imagery sets ‘House of My Fathers’ apart from others who have tackled the same subject, including Sanjeewa Pushpakumara’s ‘Burning Birds’ and Jude Ratnam’s documentary ‘Demons in Paradise’.

Suba Sivakumarn, born in 1981 in Sri Lanka, was an aid worker for eight years with the United Nations or, in Suba’s own words, ‘that’s my day job’. She completed her studies in political science and public policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Currently, she is serving in development and aid work through a private firm, working mainly for the British government.

In 2012, at the age of 30, Suba Shivakumaran broke free to pursue her true calling to be a filmmaker. From the age of 15, she nurtured the dream of becoming a filmmaker and be a part of the film industry but her non-filmic background and the accompanying norms made it rather impossible for her to explore the avenue. In 2012, she assisted on a short film I Too Have a Name; it’s a story of a nun and a girl in eastern Sri Lanka during the war and their relationship as the war unfolds around them. This was the time Suba Shivakumaran realized that filmmaking is what she was meant to do in life.

In her first directorial venture, House of My Fathers, Suba Sivakumaran brings out the stirring story of two warring villages, one Sinhalese and the other Tamil, in a poetic, allegorical manner. It’s not a love story because Suba believes that a story should narrate realistic imagery rather than a commercial fantasy. In the film, the Sinhalese and the Tamils living in the two warring villages face an infertility curse which makes them fearful of their legacies. They receive a message apparently, from the gods, to send a Tamil woman and a Sinhala man to the woods where they would find the secret to renew life. Hence, Asoka (Bimal Jayakody) and Ahalya (Pradeepa) start their journey through the Forest of Death accompanied by the Strange Doctor (Steve De La Zilwa).

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