Dheepan star appeals to Sri Lanka’s majority community

Dheepan star Antonythasan Jesuthasan says Sri Lanka’s majority Sinhalese population holds the keys to uplift minorities to equal status. He says such moves will help heal a country which he once fled, and hopes to return someday.

French director Jacques Audiard’s film Dheepan won the Palme d’Or considered the highest prize at the Cannes festival, had its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

The film follows Tamil refugees who seek asylum in France following the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka.

“I am not supporting any division of Sri Lanka.  We need the help of the Sinhalese people to integrate and help us (minorities) become equal citizens,” Jesuthasan told Lanka Reporter in an interview at TIFF.

“It is up to the majority to help the minority Tamils, Muslims, Malays, Upcountry Tamils and other groups,” he said.  “It is up to all the Sinhalese people, including writers, journalists, artists, politicians to help all the minorities.”

He admits a ‘huge’ improvement after the January 8 presidential election, but says more freedoms for individuals are necessary, especially freedom of expression for independent writers and artists.

Jesuthasan, a former LTTE cadre, who left the group and eventually fled Sri Lanka after police detention in 1988 also talked about demilitarization of the North and decentralization of power as a path to finding a political solution in the country.

On his own future, he says the idea of returning to Sri Lanka is fraught with emotion, he will only return on his own terms.

(Full interview will be published ahead of the film’s opening in Canada)