Wednesday, October 16, 2013
With You, Without You (orig. Oba Nathuwa Oba Ekka) 
With You, Without You (orig. Oba Nathuwa Oba Ekka)  (written and directed by Prasanna Vithanage) is a Sri Lankan film (subtitled in English) that played recently at the 2013 (49th) Chicago International Film Festival.
Set presumably in northern Sri Lanka, and in the context of the recent (more-or-less) end of the 30 year Tamil (ethnically-South Indian) insurgency in Sri Lanka against the indigenous-Buddhist majority, the film is about a still relatively young Sri Lankan (Buddhist) pawnbroker Sarathsiri (played by Shyam Fernando) who falls in love with and marries a Tamil (interestingly CATHOLIC) refugee named Selvi (played by Anjali Patil).
Now where were either Sarathsiri's or Selvi's kin? Everything else about the film's setting and the characters presented would suggest that the story was taking place in a rather traditional part of Sri Lanka and that the two main characters came from traditional backgrounds. Where did Sarathsiri get the money to start, presumably on his own (without his family ...) pawnbroker business? And what was Selvi's story? It's clear at the beginning of the film that she was living with relatively distant (and relatively resentful...) relatives and that she was "from somewhere else" but from where? and why?
The story, often beautifully filmed (both the lovely Sri Lankan countryside and honestly the lovely actress Anjali Patil are beautiful to watch), evokes a gentle "personalist" air akin to that of the Brazilian film Central Station (orig. Central do Brazil  about a previously "hardened by life" middle-aged woman deciding to help a 10 year old recently orphaned Rio de Janeiro street kid who comes into her life, and the more recent Mexican small-in-scope immigration drama Here and There (orig. Aquí y Allá)  about a simple family from a nondescript village situated somewhere in the mountains of Guerrero, Mexico, whose husband/father comes into and out of their lives whenever he returns back from working in the United States only to leave again for the States when(ever) the money runs out...
The difference between the two films I mention and the current one is that I found the ending of the current film to be far more depressing than it needed to be. On the other hand, Sri Lanka has gone through a terrible 30 year Civil War and the Tamil minority in particular had suffered tremendously. So it may be hard as yet to see a light at the end of such a deep and sad tunnel.
ADDENDUM: The part of India that my religious order the Friar Servants of Mary is present in is Tamil Nadu. So I do know a little about the conflict involving the Tamils living in Sri Lanka.
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