Asoka Handagama's shocking, biting, subversive variation on Boys Don't Cry about a constructionworking femaletomale transvestite who marries another woman is a jewel of a film, arguably the best yet from Sri Lanka's emerging film industry. Ironically, it almost didn't get a chance to be seen there: the Sri Lankan censor board wouldn't allow the film to be released domestically unless the director cut seven key scenes, which he categorically refused to do; only after a huge outcry by the country's intelligentsia was the ban finally lifted. Best known for This Is My Moon (which Cahiers du cinéma called 'one of the most outstanding revelations of the decade'), Handagama here tells the story of a woman who is tormented by abuse because of her decision to live as a man. Along the way, the film satirises gender roles, sexual bigotry, homophobia and the constant lowgrade sexual harassment of 'normal' smalltown Sri Lankan society. In a straightfaced, weirdly funny (though absolutely deadpan) style, Handagama presents us with complex existential and social questions, celebrating the love between the two women and the courage of the 'wife' who knew all along that her 'husband' was a woman. The censor board made the right decision in the end: this is not a confrontational film (and certainly not 'indecent' in any way), but a lowkey, touching and humanist look at the foibles of a conservative society. Tony Rayns

Original title
Tani tatuwen piyabanna
Filmmaker
Asoka Handagama
Premiere
-
Country
Sri Lanka
Year
2002
Medium
35mm
Length
81’
Language
Sinhalees
Producer
Be-Positive Media Group, Iranthi Abeyasinghe
Sales
Heliotrope Films
Writer
Asoka Handagama