VenueWalter Reade Theater
Filmmaker Beate Arnestad and film subject Sonali Samarasinghe in person at all three screenings!
Journalists in Sri Lanka risk life and limb to practice their profession. Lasantha Wickrematunge was one of these champions. He was gunned down by eight men in broad daylight. Newly wed and freshly widowed, his wife Sonali Samarasinghe had to arrange her bridegroom’s funeral only a few days after the wedding. Besides being editor-in-chief of the critical newspaper The Morning Leader, Wickrematunge was also a fierce opponent of the Sri Lankan government. As a lawyer and journalist, his wife worked closely with him; the government forced her to leave the country not long after his death. Since that time, Samarasinghe has been fighting for justice from her base in New York. Sri Lanka is one of the most perilous countries in the world for journalists. According to official sources, nearly 25 journalists have been killed there since 1992, at least ten of whom were definitely murdered. All these cases were hushed up. Director Beate Arnestad tells the story of the civil war in Sri Lanka based on the stories of journalists living in exile. She seeks out various reporters who risk their lives over and over to highlight the human rights violations taking place in their homeland. New York Premiere!
Human Rights Watch has documented allegations of war crimes in Sri Lanka and has called for a credible and transparent investigation into all claims. A report by UN experts found that 40,000 people may have been killed in early 2009, when some 300,000 civilians were forced into a tiny sliver of land in northern Sri Lanka, stuck between the military and combatants from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). While the LTTE held them as human shields, forcibly recruiting people into combat and shooting anyone that tried to escape, the military shelled hospitals and schools with utter disregard for civilian lives. Sri Lankans who protested government actions or called for civilian protection were treated as traitors by the government. Civil society is traumatized into silence and the media is forced to self-censor. It is in this climate that a few brave people, such as those profiled in the film, continue to campaign for the truth.