Burning Birds (Davena Vihagun) (2016) by Sanjeewa Pushpakumara

A hard hitting narrative depicts the struggle for existence


Some movies depict reality. But the approach of presentation varies from film to film. Director Sanjeewa Pushpakumara portrays reality in its crudest form in “Burning Birds” and questions the position of women in Sri Lankan society in the time of prolonged civil war.

The movie is set on a rural area of 90's Sri Lanka tormented by civil war. Kusum’s (Anoma Janadari) husband, a fish-seller is tortured and killed by the local militia, as he was suspected of being involved in terrorism.  The struggle for survival begins for Kusum and her eight children in a difficult situation. She starts working in a quarry but loses the job after few days due to a sudden shutdown after an accident.  In her fight for existence, she joins a male dominated abattoir, but starts facing sexual assaults from the male workers and gets gang-raped by the owner and his mates. To earn livelihood for her family Kusum turns to prostitution. 


Pushpakumara hits the audience hard  with a lens of realistic crudity in the movie. The movie contains some violent rape scenes but that nudity was required to portray the roughness and smut.  The director brings in the trauma of a despondent family with some hard hitting scenes.  Kusum breastfeeds her daughter in one scene and in another she shaves her public hair to make herself presentable to the clients. The director uses mostly long shots in the movie that allow him to portray many activities at the same time with maximum details.  Camera has been kept in the lower angle through-out the movie to give a documentary feeling that makes the narrative more realistic and convincing. The costume and art design has been excellent and blend perfectly with the script.

Kusum’s character goes through many different shades in the movie and Anoma Janadari is brilliant as the protagonist. She portrays her character with a shade of utmost pain and agony but with an unflappable spirit, which has a deep impact on the audience. Samanalee Fonseka as Wasana is also natural and spontaneous  and well supported by the other characters of the movie.


“Burning Birds” is a brilliantly crafted movie against a large canvas that upholds quite a few statements and stands as a humanitarian document. The movie has won multiple International awards including the prestigious best film award of International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights, Geneva.


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Asian Film Vault: Burning Birds (Davena Vihagun) (2016) by Sanjeewa Pushpakumara
Burning Birds (Davena Vihagun) (2016) by Sanjeewa Pushpakumara
A hard hitting narrative depicts the struggle for existence
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