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SRI LANKA - FRANCE

Sri Lanka government welcomes Cannes prize for Dheepan

Antonythasan Jesuthasan in Jacques Audiard's Dheepan
Antonythasan Jesuthasan in Jacques Audiard's Dheepan Paul Arnaud - Why Not Productions

Sri Lanka's government has hailed the Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or award for Dheepan, a film about the bloody with Tamil Tiger (LTTE) separatists, hoping that it will draw attention to its "reconciliation efforts".

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Dheepan tells the story of a Tamil Tiger guerrilla who flees the country with a woman and girl who pose as his family and ends up on a crime-ridden French housing estate.

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The war ended in 2009 with a defeat for the LTTE but both the guerrillas and then-president Mahinda Rajapakse's government was accused of human-rights violations.

"The movie talks about a situation decades ago," government spokesperson Rajitha Senaratne, who is also the health minister, told the AFP news agency. "It is not the current picture. It is very different now.

"We have a new government which is serious about reconciliation, ensuring justice and addressing the problems of the minorities."

He said the publicity around the film should arouse "more interest in reconciliation efforts".

The film's lead actor, Anthonythasan Jesuthasan, himself a former LTTE child soldier who secured asylum in France, has said his character, Dheepan, was about "50 per cent" autobiographical.

"I am glad that the Tigers' use of child soldiers has come to light," Senaratne said.

Current President Maithripala Sirisena, who unseated Rajapakse in January, has lifted bans on at least two local films based on civilians caught up in the conflict.

During his decade-long rule, Rajapakse had branded war-themed local productions "unpatriotic" because they allegedly portrayed security forces in a poor light.

 

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