The situation for LGBT individuals in Sri Lanka has been extremely difficult, particularly due to Article 365 of the Sri Lankan Penal Code, which was established in 1885 during British rule and criminalizes any sexual acts considered “unnatural.” The ongoing financial crisis since 2019 has only exacerbated this already challenging situation. In their 20-minute short film, Rajitha Hettiarachchi and Kavindu Sivaraj explore these two concepts.
The “Lifebuoy” review is included in the Submit Your Film program.
The movie starts with a man sitting on a chair at the beach, listening to updates about the crisis happening in Sri Lanka. Across from him, another man is trying to flirt with an older tourist from the Western world. The first man clearly disapproves of this. Eventually, he confronts the local man and their interaction is rather strange.
Due to the current crisis, resources and funds are limited. As a result, tourists are treated with extra attention and reverence as locals try to make money from them by any means possible. As the story unfolds, it becomes evident that the two men have a deeper connection than just being acquaintances. The relationship between the police officer and the waiter is forbidden. In a secluded setting, the two are finally able to open up and discuss their feelings and personal struggles. Despite facing challenges, their love for each other prevails.
Rajitha Hettiarachchi and Kavindu Sivaraj have co-directed a brave short film that sheds light on the current situation in Sri Lanka. The film effectively portrays two important themes – the struggles of queer individuals who are forced to hide their identities and the economic hardship faced by the locals, leading to some resorting to prostitution as a means of survival. Through both these stories, the film raises important points about the societal challenges faced by the people in Sri Lanka.
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Simultaneously, given the waiter’s openness with his partner about his actions, it is effective for the film to not depict a jealous confrontation, but rather showcase a message of mutual understanding and love. The final scene of the couple being alone together in darkness holds a symbolic significance, although it does take up a significant portion of the short film, making it slightly challenging to follow in comparison to the initially more upbeat segment.
In general, Kavindu Sivaraj’s camera work effectively portrays the shift from paradise to dystopia. The editing by Dulina Chandrasiri maintains a good pace, with a faster tempo in the first half and a slower one in the second, which complements the overall aesthetic. Bhanuka Ekanayake and Lakranga Hewavitharana deliver convincing performances as the protagonists, although they are not given enough room to fully showcase their talents.
Although there were a few problems, “Lifebuoy” is a well-crafted short film that effectively communicates its messages.