Film Update

Helene Klodawsky

My desire to do a film on Rajani Thiranagama coincided, in ways I only fully realized later, with a great hunger for a more open discussion on human rights in the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict. Perhaps somewhat ironically, it took a Canadian filmmaker far removed from this war to revive Rajani's message of peace and justice.

In speaking so openly in the film -- even at great risk to themselves -- Rajani's family could not help but move others to do the same. Over the last year "No More Tears Sister" became one event among several that kick-started debate on human rights in Sri Lanka in a new and significant way. Rajani's words, spoken so eloquently 17 years ago, continue to this day to provide a searing commentary on the situation in her beloved homeland. Her critique inspires as much today as when it was first uttered -- not only in Sri Lanka, but wherever innocent people are caught in the crossfire of armies and militants. human rights advocates around the world have seen the film and endorsed Rajani's message.

Since the release of the 80-minute version in 2005, No More Tears Sister has traveled the world -- from South Africa to Asia, Australia, North America and Europe -- appearing in new venues almost every month. As evidenced by vigorous Internet exchanges, it has been seen and talked about throughout the Sri Lankan diaspora by people from all walks of life. And everywhere I appeared at screenings, Sri Lankans reacted emotionally, many thanking me personally, telling me how happy they were to see such a film in circulation. Inevitably someone in the audience would reveal a special relationship to Rajani or her work in Jaffna. Her influence was everywhere. Some of my favorite moments have been Tamil mothers wanting to buy the film for their sons and daughters, or vice versa, as a way to revisit their past. At one screening in Alberta, a Sri Lankan announced the film was worth more than all the aid Canada sends to his country. And of course introducing family members to applauding crowds in Toronto, New York and London has been electrifying. Many look forward to the day when No More Tears Sister will be televised nationally in Sri Lanka, in both Tamil and Sinhalese, so that all may pay homage to this great woman of peace and coexistence. Clearly this remains a contentious decision.

We also learned that many Tamils felt uneasy about attending public screenings, fearful that the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) might be present and cause them ill. In Holland, a Dutch man explained that he had been sent by his Tamil neighbor, who was too frightened to attend himself. At some screenings individuals or groups asked hostile questions or attempted to intimidate. Television dissemination of No More Tears Sister is therefore our ally, allowing people to view the film without fear, in the privacy of their homes.

On a very personal level, meeting Rajani's family and discovering her life's work has been both a transformative experience and a privilege. Knowing them I now appreciate much more the concepts of "standing up for one's ideals" and "the personal is the political." The film has changed the family, too. Since "coming out" in the documentary, the family has decided to make its ever present activism more open and vocal, bringing its message of hope and justice to thousands around the globe. Interviews on this website with Rajani's sisters Nirmala and Vasuki, and daughters Narmada and Sharika, explore how the film has touched their lives.

-- Helene Klodawsky, June 7, 2006