The filmmaker

Sri Lanka’s legendary filmmaker Dr Lester James Peries talks about his early life as a filmmaker, his mentor Lionel Wendt and the films that launched his career in cinema. Featuring ‘Rekava’ (1956) and ‘The Song of Ceylon’ (1934) directed by Basil Wright. Photography by Kannan Arunasalam. Archival material courtesy of the Lester James Peries Foundation.

Join the discussion: 2 comments

  • Kannan Arunasalam says:

    For someone who was a Sri Lankabhimanya, the highest honour given for outstanding services to the country, he was remarkably down to earth and generous with his time. With so many people making demands on his time, he was initially hesitant to give so much of it to just one person.

    But straightaway he dived into the story of his father’s gift of a Kodascope 8 mm projector, so I got out my mic and started recording. “That must have been at the back of my mind, it may have even inspired me along the way,” he told me as I recorded the stories of Sri Lanka’s iconic filmmaker.

    He was 92 years old, but he hadn’t lost touch with the industry. His wife Sumithra Peries was directing one of his stories, and in doing so pushing the boundaries of digital filmmaking with her film ‘Vaishnavee’. I was thrilled when they invited me along to the shoot.

    In the taxi, we talked about the filmmakers he had met like Akira Kurosawa and Lindsay Anderson, who had stayed with him on an extended visit to Sri Lanka. Dr Peries was indebted to others who were what he described as the “figures of destiny”, guiding him along at various turning points in his career in cinema, like Sri Lankan Lionel Wendt and the English documentary filmmaker Ralph Keene, with whom he had worked with at the Government Film Unit.

    When we arrived on location, Dr Peries was given a seat next to his wife and they both sat watching the monitors. Between takes he gave guidance to the other actors and crew. Though frail and softly spoken, his presence was felt.

  • Cezar Neaga (@cezarneaga) says:

    Remember the @iam_project? New portraits from Colombo live now. The filmmaker | i am


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