The Galle Film Fest and US Embassy are conducting a children’s film camp for kids all over the island. It’s interesting because there are 40 kids from Jaffna, Trinco, Hatton, Hambantota, Puttalam, Moneragala, etc being mixed together. The films they make are quite cool, and they’re also meeting a lot of different people. I went to visit the camp at the Sarvodaya campus in Bandaragama (past Piliyandala). It was quite cool for me to meet kids from all over as well. They’re screening their films at the Punchi Theatre, Borella on Saturday the 22nd, 7 PM.
The shooting I watched had was a family drama about a mean brother. The brother was Sinhala, the sister was a Tamil speaking Muslim (from Puttalam) and the cast was mixed. The language of the thing was Sinhala and it was directed by Constance Tillotson, an acting coach from LA. Reputed director Anoma Rajakaruna was there as well, with another group.
I suppose it’s trite, but all these kids from different areas are able to work together (across language barriers) basically through mutual curiosity. There were trilingual volunteers, but a young Muslim kid from Hambantota (town) was doing a lot of translating. His family spoke Tamil and he went to school in Tamil medium but new Sinhala hanging out and playing with his Sinhala friends. I’m pretty sure English is not a link language, but I think Muslims are a link race.
Then I wandered over to talk to the kids from Jaffna, Trinco, etc who were working on a Tamil language script with Kasinathar Gnanadas. Their script was a tragedy about a callous administrator who denies tsunami benefits to his own sisters (unwittingly) and then they, er, kill themselves. Bit harsh.
The kids themselves were, as ever, giggly and charming. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed is that curiosity (and even boredom) is something all Sri Lankan share. There was one kid who spoke good English, but even with the rest we could sort of communicate. I mean roughly communicate, as in they were making fun of each other and us the whole time.
They like John Cena, Vijay and Rajinikanth (Tamil actors who I also like), etc. The Jaffna kids made fun of the Trinco Tamil and vice versa. There seems to be a vital difference in the way they say monkey. They said they liked the hotel they’d stayed in before but like home the most.
I think these reconciliation activities are great. Not for the sake of that big word, but just cause it’s nice as a kid to see new places and people and learn stuff. More than legislation, I think education holds the promise of peace, especially regarding the language issue.
Children are actually capable of creating a new language in a generation. In slave or created colonies with a lot of mixed language communities you’d get something called a pidgin. Basically a ‘kitchen’ language which could get stuff done between different dialects, but lacked the complexity of a full language. Within one generation, however, children (using their natural, neurological language acquisition ability) fill in the camps and create a full language. A creole.
I’m not suggesting a Sinhala/Tamil creole, but there is a point where kids can learn a second language easy and after about 12 it gets quite difficulty. And then after A-levels educational opportunity peters out and things get a bit calcified.
There is, however, a generation born after 1983 and the brute trauma of war. I think if we give them opportunities now they have the creative potential within them to maybe stitch the thing back together.