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Understanding cinema

Whether one reviews local Sinhala cinema or any other language films, such reviewers and critics should first understand the cinema medium. They must know the history of local Sinhala cinema first. If their thinking and attitudes go beyond the narrow confines of Sinhala cinema only, then they must know something about other cinemas as well. It would help them to have a universal perspective.

Lankan film critics and reviewers should go beyond the local film industry (that includes the films produced in Tamil language in the country) Since we are Asians first, we must be knowledgeable in understanding and appreciating South Asian and South East Asian films in particular. Since India is the major film producing country in the world today, we must without prejudices try to understand films produced in that country.

In India the most number of films is produced in Thamil language. Next comes Hindi films. Thus we need to know more about these film cultures in Koadambakkam and Mumbai and Hyderabad and other places.

Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam are some other countries that have a film culture of their own. Even Maldives has its own film industry. Then there is the Latin American cinema, South African cinema, Australian cinema, Canadian cinema, American cinema and of course the European cinema.

Most of us reviewers and film critics have no access to films from different countries except spasmodically courtesy the foreign missions and some institutions like the ICES.

Even though Hollywood has taken over the European cinema world, yet we must know in detail how film culture developed in various parts of Europe over the years.

We can study the European Cinema under the following categories:

Capsule history of the social and political processes of the 20th century and development of cinema, beginnings of Cinema, German Expressionism, The Russian School, The French School, The Italian Neo- Realism, Cinema of Eastern Europe

We need to know about Hollywood cinema and the cinema of the Third world and, of course, the current developments.

If we were to know more about Indian cinema, we should know about the beginnings and the silent cinema, a landmark survey of Indian films till the end of last century and the new Indian cinema in the present century.

There is a huge library of book on understanding cinema available in English and other languages. We must at least have a cursory glance of some of these standard books before trying to review a film in terms of theme and structure.

Film Criticism is serous business. In Lanka we had a handful of excellent film critics writing in the English language in the past, some of them filmmakers themselves. However at present we have none writing in English except for one or two who write in academic fashion spasmodically.

So a columnist like myself tries to introduce some outstanding films I had seen in International film Festivals held in India for the benefit of lay readers. Some of us do not seem to know the difference between pornography and eroticism presented in aesthetic fashion. That is a sad fact.

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