ගිම්හානයේ නෙත්ර/The Eyes of Summer (2020)
ගිම්හානයේ නෙත්ර/The Eyes of Summer Rajee Samarasinghe Sri Lanka/USA15 min2020
In a small and remote hamlet in southern Sri Lanka, a little girl develops a curious friendship with a spirit who lives in an abandoned house. This film was shot in my mother’s village in southern Sri Lanka—shortly after the civil war in 2010. Collaboratively developed with members of my family there, a narrative was improvised around an investigation into my mother’s interactions with spirits in the community during her childhood. Landing somewhere between horror fiction and “spectral” ethnography, the film describes a population reeling from devastations of the past, where distinctions between the living and the dead are thinning, and foreign influences loom over Sri Lanka’s commercial, economic, and media infrastructure.
One of my earliest memories is of burnt human flesh in newspaper halftones wrapped around a breakfast pastry purchased for me by my mother at the local marketplace. I can remember associating the flesh with the smell of bread which made me ill—though it did make me aware of a certain logic that had to do with pictures. In 1983, Prabhakaran rallied his band of rebels and civil war was declared in Sri Lanka. What rose was a culture saturated with analogous images of pain. Coercive imagery removed from any larger sociopolitical context—propaganda machines teaching the visually illiterate how to see. My first experiment in video adapted aspects of Susan Sontag’s text Regarding the Pain of Others by exploring modes of othering pain through the formal abstraction of a snuff film. I was spurred by a curiosity which had to do with the capacity of images to be transmuted. This became a method of exercising some control over the images and structures fixed onto my brain. My work often aims at dismantling hegemonic structures found in the culture of image consumption and exposing oppressive systems of powers. – Rajee Samarasinghe
This film is available to stream globally.
This film is co-presented with Canyon Cinema.
Image credits: all artworks, stills, and portraits courtesy of the artist © Rajee Samarasinghe.
about the artist
Rajee Samarasinghe (Sri Lanka/USA) is an artist and filmmaker born in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1988. His films tackle contemporary socio-political conditions through the scope of his own identity and the deconstruction of ethnographic practices. Samarasinghe received a BFA in Visual Art from the University of California San Diego (2010), and an MFA in Film & Video from California Institute for the Arts (2016). He has completed nearly 20 films since 2012, including The Queen of Material (2014), The Spectre Watches Over Her (2016), The Exile (2018), and Misery Next Time (2021), which have widely exhibited at festivals, museums, and galleries internationally, including the Museum of Modern Art, Split Film Festival, Royal Belgian Cinematheque, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Film Society of Lincoln Center, California Institute of the Arts, FIDMarseille, Internationale Short Film Festival Oberhausen, Bellevue Arts Museum, Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival, Antimatter, International Museum of Muslim Cultures, BFI London Film Festival, EXiS Festival, McEvoy Foundation for the Arts, Sydney Underground Film Festival, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Cosmic Rays, Slamdance Film Festival, Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, Kurzfilm Festival Hamburg, Light Cone, L’Âge d’Or, Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano, and two previous editions of Media City Film Festival. He received the Tíos Award for Best International Film, Ann Arbor Film Festival (2020), and Film House Award for Visionary Filmmaking, Athens International Film & Video Festival (2017). He is the recipient of a Sundance Documentary Fund grant (2019), and participated in Berlinale Talents’ Doc Station and True/False Film Festival’s PRISM program (2020). He was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film, and programmed for both REDCAT and Slamdance Film Festival (2020). Samarasinghe is currently working on his debut feature, Your Touch Makes Others Invisible, inspired by his childhood experiences during the Sri Lankan civil war. He lives and works in Los Angeles, California.