Interview with Suranga Katugampala (2015)

A couple weeks ago, I posted a few comments about a short film I was sent through my Facebook pageSon of the lovely capitalism by Suranga Katugampala was an aesthetically striking and haunting piece. I did a brief email interview with Suranga. Here’s what he had to say about his film, his filmmaking and his background. My thanks goes to Suranga for patiently answering these questions!

NM: Your short film “Son of the lovely capitalism” is aesthetically stunning. You play with
long­-takes, long shots, superimpositions and rapid cuts. What is your professional
background?

SK: I’m a professor of multimedia at the Lab Mohole, Milan. I studied computer media and then
cinema. Then I traveled. I studied meditation in Nepal.

NM: There is a certain power in both the images and the sound thanks to the aesthetics
you have chosen. Are these long-­takes a trademark of your filmmaking?

SK: I think it’ s still too early for me to talk about trademark. I’m a young director, I’m 27. I’m
constantly investigating who am I. I believe that the trademark, in this moment of my
life, should be a spontaneous consequence. I don’t want to make my filmmaking a trade issue or simply labeling: for example, “is a film by Suranga” or something. I just want to throw out what I have inside. Tell to the world my thoughts. My stories are tales of urgency. So I don’t think and don’t want to think about a trademark. Now my goal is to concentrate on the telling. If it will give birth to a trademark it will be just a consequence. I love long takes, but I don’t want to think about it as a trademark, but as a need. Otherwise the risk is you end up doing things just for stylistic obligation.

NM: “Son of the lovely capitalism” plays on slowness. Instances of rapid cuttings disorientated me while watching, so there was a form of binary opposition in some ways. And yet, you seem to represent the effects of capitalism on young people with the help of cinematic slowness. Why is that?

SK: There is a binary opposition. Slow, in this case, for me is kind of apathy, apathy of the new
generation, a lack of social energy, a lack of social activism. On the other hand, the speed for me is monotony, monotony of the routine that is nowadays offered by the capitalism. The idea that Man is a kind of machine, that produces according a rhythm. Just like a real authentic machine. In this way, for me, the speed is monotony, the same rhythm. Now, for me, these are two sides of the same question. For me, this is a society that offers a lot, running quickly towards a continuous development, but most of times does not run to anything true and authentic. Many people move in traffic, in the subways. Like ants at work. It is like running on a treadmill. Where are you running? Nowhere, because you’re still. You have the feeling to run, but the fact, according me, is that you are running nowhere, you are fixed in the same position.

NM: You come from Sri Lanka and are now living in Italy. Does your connection to these
two nations find a place in your films?

SK: Yes absolutely. I think I can consider myself in a privileged position. I am fortunate to see
how is the world from two different points of view. I believe this gives me a broader view of
the state of things. In the village of my grandparents I appreciated the meaning and usefulness of the rites and the human need to stay close to nature. Both for a physiological need and for internal peace. I miss it in modern society. I fear that modern man is stressed and this is not a secret. But if the older generation was lucky to see even more, the countryside and nature for
example, the new generation, born in the technology, sees this one uniquely. Returning to the young people, I have the feeling that most of the young people today, did not feel the thrill of “cycling in the countryside and jump into a river “. In short they stay away from nature. I am also very attached to the issue of immigration: Immigration in Europe. I mentioned this for example in my short film Punaragamanaya; returning to where I’m talking about the need of the first generation of immigrants to go back at home. [edit NM: you can find the trailer here]

NM: Where do you draw your inspirations from?

SK: I watch a lot of movies. I follow authors who have worked in the direction that I’m going, but
I think that the point is observation creates inspirations. Not just about outside, the world and
the society, but also an inner observation. So there are times when I don’t watch any movie, but just travel. Travel only a few days, but traveling allows me to uproot from my beliefs and so to have a larger awareness of things.

NM: Can you tell me a little bit about Sri Lankan cinema? It is a well understudied region
in Film Studies, like so many other countries.

SK: The Sri Lankan cinema, in recent years, has seen a great flowering of new directors who act to
bring out the country’s needs. In Sri Lankan film industry there are two major categories. The mainstream films, for example Aba by Jaskson Anthoy, do not leave the country. They remain within country walls, for a local audience. And then we have the art cinema. For example Ahasin vateyi by Vimukthi Jayasundara. This kind of cinema is created by an urgency to raise social issues. It’s cinema that faces the real problems of the country. For example suppressions and taboos. These films usually leave the country to reach the most important festivals and winning important awards. Yet there are social problems have not yet been addressed. For example the westernization of Sri Lanka. There are many emerging filmmakers involved in new arguments post war but they have to deal with high costs that cinema imposes. Nevertheless independent cinema is gaining ground in the country.

NM: You are currently working on a feature film. Will this be an extension of your new
short film?

SK: It will not be an extension but an inspiration. There will be more narrative, but always with a strong presence of silence. Silence, for me, is an essential component of the story. I have the feeling to disarm the audience with the silence, to make them defenseless, inadequate. But this inadequacy is just and illusions, a form of tunnel that leads to a different vision, a silent and more active participation. The film talk about the immigration. Precisely about the conflict between first-­generation immigrants and their children.

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One thought on “Interview with Suranga Katugampala (2015)

  1. Hi Nadin

    Are you also traumatised that Labour in Scotland has been so mobbed? Should Labour have introduced proportional representation under Blair/Brown, and moved UK to German-style coalition governments?

    Suranga’s films sound interesting. I might need to stop being stubborn about encountering films through public screenings (preferably with viewer(s) I do not know), as opposed to private screenings. So many good filmmakers… whose films never make it into arthouse cinema distribution, never mind multiplex cinema distribution. How can anyone believe that capitalism (= possessive individualism) is not-so-bad?

    Sorry if I missed an announcement, but has your book on Lav Diaz’s cinema been ‘published’? E-book only, or E-book plus print-on-demand?

    Any interest in reading a theoretical article-in-progress of mine? With regard to Lav Diaz’s cinema.

    Salve Adrian

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