Prab from Minnesota asks: Have you personally come to any conclusions about the conflict in Sri Lanka? Please explain.
Helene Klodawsky: Almost two years after the film was made, I am most saddened to see that the situation in Sri Lanka has deteriorated rather than improved due to the fact that the 2002 ceasefire agreement has effectively broken down with both sides engaging in clashes and reprisal killings. Even though the two sides of the conflict are keeping up a formal pretence of trying to maintain the ceasefire, peace talks have not happened for ages.
It seems as though the country is cursed by leaders, both in the Sri Lankan government and by LTTE, who choose military violence over negotiated compromise. While I was in Sri Lanka in 2003 people of all walks of life talked of their unconditional desire for an end to war and political killings. Rajani’s word today, describing innocent populations caught in the cross fire, are sadly so potent. People are being sacrificed by their leaders who are too invested in fighting to carve out a just peace. A recent report by a peace support group in Sri Lanka sums it up well: “The status quo at present remains that acts of indiscriminate violence are committed and that accountability is denied. There is also a trend of retaliatory killings and attacks which pave the way for a cycle of violence in which each act is justified by claiming the commission of a similar act by the ‘other’ party.”
Isharaka from Australia asks: First I’d like to express my heart felt thanks to you for doing a greater service to my country than any Sri Lankan politician or a terrorist could ever hope of doing. (Not that they intend to, anyway.) To make a long story short, No More Tears Sister goes a long way in alleviating the misunderstandings and remnants of hatred lingering among Sinhalese and Tamil communities. I am writing to ask if it is at all possible to distribute copies of the movie among Sri Lankans living in Australia. I do understand that this may not be simple exercise due to commercial and copyright reasons. However, if you could make it possible it would be a great gift you can give to a torn apart community. Thank you very much.
Klodawsky: Your kind words are most gratifying. You can find out about ordering copies of No More Tears Sister here.
Gabrielle from South Dakota asks: What did you learn about the strength of ordinary women from the making of the film? It seems as though that it is the love found in the hearts of women that often initiates change. If — as women — we are destroyed by frustration, oppression, sorrow, pain and anger, then the next generation may never have the chance to find the way home to full humanity.
Klodawsky: I learned that the strength of ordinary women is enormous in keeping alive hope for the next generation. Sri Lankan women today — even after twenty-five years of war, disappearances and extra judicial killings — are resisting as much as they can. Take for example, ordinary Tamil mothers who, at great danger to their entire families, are refusing to give up their sons to LTTE fighters wishing to enlarge their armies. In small ways too, women are trying to carve out human space for families and loved ones, so ground down and made vulnerable by militants and armies.
Geo from New York asks: This was a wonderful, inspiring film! I have two questions: have you seen the film In the name of the Buddha — a film about Tamils/the Sri Lanka war? And what you think people of the future will say about the conflicts going on today?
Klodawsky: No, unfortunately I have not seen, In The Name of the Buddha. It is my hope that in the not too distant future, historians will shake their heads and wonder how governments got away with pushing their people into war instead of negotiated peace agreements. People will wonder how such leaders became elected, manipulating their populations into supporting violent conflicts. They will ask, “why were so many lives were sacrificed to ensure the continued supremacy of such unscrupulous leaders”?
Carol from New Jersey asks: As a high school teacher of a World Literature class, I show Santosh Sivan’s The Terrorist to my students. Seeing No More Tears Sister clearly shows the connection. Have you worked with Sivan? And if not, what is your opinion of his film regarding the plight of these young Tamil women?
Klodawsky:: I have seen this film but not worked with Sivan. In my opinion the film takes us into the life of a young woman who is being manipulated into being a suicide bomber. The film is certainly an eye opener on this process of dehumanization and manipulation, grounded in the fact that the woman’s own family was destroyed by war. The film seems to be saying that unjust armies are implicated in the creation of bomb carrying terrorists. Such vulnerable women are preyed upon by militant groups willing to sacrifice them for their own political objectives.
Neither army or militant group sees the individual as an important life, full of potential or inherent right to exist — she is only a cog in the wheel, used to further political objectives.
Madeline from New Mexico asks: Is there any further news about the possibility of this film being aired in Sri Lanka?
Klodawsky: So far, in spite of our best efforts, there is no news.
JungLee from California asks: I’m curious if you ever talked to Rajani’s family about their Christian faith, and how it figured and influenced their activism?
Klodawsky: I think the family’s Christian upbringing was always closely identified with notions of justice, charity and beliefs in love thy neighbor. Eventually when the sisters grew up and became aware of so much inequality and injustice in the larger society, they responded both personally and politically.