Wednesday, 24 November 2004  
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Film review

Mille Soya

Laudable exercise in free cinema concept

by Chandana Silva

In search of soothing dreams what won't the young generation do? The young film-maker Boodee Kirthisena shows great concern of the fate of the thousands of young people venturing to the unknown in the hope of a better future. The passage to Italy as illegal immigrants is highly risky, and also costly. The success is at a very low edge which fate may decide.

The film-maker draws our attention as an independent thinker of the present day social set up. The unbalanced nature of life due to economic strains becomes his concern. The ironies of these situations are underlined in a subtle manner.

In Mille Soya the narrative has big bold fullstops and slashes. There is no story in the conventional meaning and no heroes and heroines. All are simple people struggling to fulfil their dreams.

The social and economical environment in the coastal villages bear witness to the assessment one could make of the unemployment, poverty, political killings and discrimination. Lack of good education and the social structure throws them off the road to good jobs and money.

A scene from Mille Soya

This dream for comfortable life and riches makes them utterly frustrated, pressing them to the edge of risking their own lives in search of Mille.

The youth of two generations have been beaten severely by the social and economic changes in the country. In the early seventies job opportunities were scarce.

Long queues from the employment exchange opposite C.T.O. ran round the rail road bridge passing the Regal Theatre in the opposite direction. There were thousands of youth with no hope for tomorrow. The concurrent uprising killed most of them.

Illicit immigrants

The desperate youth made effort to travel overland, or by sea to destinations they really did not know. Some never reached any destination nor returned home. Gradually they found better but still dangerous ways.

There were organized middlemen to help them to enter Western European countries as illicit immigrants. They travelled in trucks hidden under cargo holds, inside containers, crossed snow-covered mountains at night. Many were wounded or killed in the exercise.

From this pathetic backdrop Boodee Kirthisena picks relevant incidents to construct his narrative rather unusual for the Sinhala film. The bunch of unrelated incidents to construct his narrative is simple and valid in the context of the subject it deals with.

At times scenes and in blackouts. He does not attempt for matching cuts and angles; images are not forcibly made with lens effects. Though Boodee has to reach the Sinhala film audience he does not go in for the conventional methods.

He is closer to the free cinema and making an effort to establish his own style. Boodee is in the process of changing the outlook of the Sinhala film, like a very few other young men.

Boodee is very independent in engaging in the media of cinema overlooking the accepted method of using similar cuts and image to image link. He uses a few close-ups and images prominent by lens effects. Any superficial beauty has been taken away and the realistic approach creates a closer link with the audience.

The film-maker is in the process of developing his own style, which has reference to "Sihina Deshayen". In a way this type of film-making has a risk factor considering the general audience. However, Mille Soya takes this challenge very well.

Youth unrest

The film deals with the hard truth of unemployment and youth unrest, which has lasted for the past 30 to 40 years. Most young people do not have a sound education or knowledge of English to procure employment. Mainly, government jobs are available only through political influence. In the same society children of affluent people find means to lead a luxurious life.

The only chance left for the frustrated youth is to enter Italy or Germany as "illicit immigrants" with life at risk. They have embarked on this journey having mortgaged their property and other belongings. Boodee looks at their plight with humanity and compassion, making a cinematic examination bringing their lives closer to us.

The crucial part is presented with a pitiful look at them. Travelling in cargo holds of long distance business crossing, snow covered mountains and jungles and in everyone of these laps watch the death of a dear friend. Yet you have to leave him and push forward, in this unforgettable journey.

In this harrowing experience the film-maker reveals the innerselves of the people. Their fun, anger, perversion, stealing and even deceiving your own self as part of the struggle for existence. What we experience is convincing and truthful.

In Mille Soya he does not hesitate to have fun at the politicians and their stooges and the typical Sri Lankan behaviour of some people. Even the box office catches of the Sinhala film, like songs and romances, lovers travelling in an open car, hero dressed in a cowboy costume riding on an elephant, made satirical at the expense of the popular Sinhala Film. Further, indirectly, it may serve as amusement to his audience.

Human aspect

Although films are generally considered as entertainment, the true filmmaker always thinks of the human aspect of his characters. The philosophic truth beneath the lives of the young people he is dealing with is an important fact. We have to see the incidents in the light of youthful excitement.

However, towards the latter part of the film we find things disintegrating, as they become adults with families and other involvements. The powerful energy of youth is lost in a vacuum.

In the finale the voice from the sky addresses Priyath. Under the shade of the massive tree the letter conforming employment in Italy, legally, flies in the wind, no one to care for.

Rohan Joseph de Saram, one of Sri Lanka's versatile musicians has provided some melodious music as the background score. The music all in all is unique and he has captured the general tone of the film rather than the events in isolation.

The filmmaker takes advantage by using a music group to heighten the youthful exuberance. Unable to catch-up with the popular groups due to lack of experience and equipment, these young people end up in frustration. Finally one member of the group ends up as a gangster.

In Mille Soya, the entire social background is well interwoven with the incidents. The innocent old drunkard appearing at political meetings, weddings and in village brawls is a significant character Boodee has acknowledged as a social symbol.

The two mothers trying to help their youthful sons. The Buddhist priest begging for alms. Smugglers, victims of brutal killings, even the retired policeman getting beaten in Italy from one of his victims takes us to the core of the social problem.

In turn this reveals the life of the group of young people we are getting to know. The only girl in the group appears as if she has lost most of her female innocence.

The sarong-clad hero in the duet is really making fun at the popular hero character of the Sinhala commercial film. We all whole-heartedly appreciate Boodee's exercise in making a film of his own way reaching to the free cinema concept.

Grave situations

He sees the funny side of life even in grave situations. He deeply observes the characteristics and emotions of the people he is presenting. The filmmaker is aware of the reality as well as the illusion that cinema could present. He views the problems of the youth in terms of reality with kindness and compassion.

Cinematography and editing in Mille Soya has helped to make a coherent liking between the various isolated incidents by way of which Boodee has built up a steady flow of images.

Editor makes the events pass through time back and forth smoothly. The candid type cinematography overlooks all standard mid and long shots. The cameraman moves along with the subjects right along making situations authentic.

Boodee has an admirable spirit in film making to make this off beat film where he has faced many obstacles, without the standard production facilities. He has given in himself to reach the true perspective of the theme. We like it, as there is nothing superficial to be seen.

Certainly Mille Soya is a rare experience, good film for relaxation and to ponder a while of the society we are living, when and what we could do to improve the conditions around us. The camera records realistically, sometimes taking the documentary style, which makes the viewer closer to the vivid situation.

This human drama captured in realistic terms will have a special appeal to the audiences as a deviation from the accepted norms of the Sinhala film.

 **** Back ****

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