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Bambaru Awith (1978)
Bambaru Awith (1978)

Pathiraja’s Bambaru Awith at Cannes Classics 2020

By Anuradha Kodagoda

Veteran filmmaker, the late Dharmasena Pathiraja’s masterpiece Bambaru Awith (The Wasps Are Here) (1978, Sri Lanka), has been selected for the 17th edition of Cannes Classics, a popular sidebar dedicated to restored heritage movies and documentaries which form part of the Official Selection of the International Cannes Film Festival.

Dharmasena Pathiraja

Dharmasena Pathiraja has been referred to as a ‘rebel with a cause’, an ‘enfant terrible of the ’70s’, and is widely recognised as the pioneer of Sri Lankan cinema’s ‘second revolution and in 1978 the film represented Sri Lanka at the 10th Moscow International Film Festival and was screened at the Venice and Los Angeles Film Festivals.

Locally, the film was awarded Best Director and Best Film honours at the first Presidential Film Awards and the OCIC Awards. In 1997, a special council selected to celebrate 50 years of Sri Lankan Cinema named it the fourth best Sri Lankan film of all-time.

This year’s Cannes Classics comprises 25 feature films and seven documentaries. The highlights are Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love, which celebrates its 25th anniversary, as well as Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless and Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Aventura, which are both turning 60. Cannes Classics will also turn the spotlight on Federico Fellini, the Italian master who would have turned 100 in 2020. Two films by Fellini are part of the selection, La strada and Luci del varietà, along with the documentary Fellini of the Spirits directed by Anselma dell’Olio.

Since the Cannes Film Festival canceled its physical edition due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s selection of Cannes Classics will be showcased at the Lumière Festival in Lyon which will run Oct. 10-18, and at the Rencontres Cinématographiques of Cannes, set to take place Nov. 23-26. The Lumiere Festival is overseen by Bertrand Tavernier and headed by Cannes Festival Director, Thierry Fremaux.