Daniel Green LFF

BFI London Film Festival 2011: ‘Flying Fish’

★★☆☆☆

Following three parallel stories set against the backdrop of the Sri Lankan Civil War, Sanjeewa Pushpakumara’s debut feature Flying Fish (Igillena maluwo) – starring Chaminda Sampath Jayaweera, Rathnayaka Marasinghe and Siththi Mariyam – is unfortunately too languorous to sustain any prolonged sense of drama, despite an undeniably shocking finale.

Flying Fish has a great deal of potential due to its Civil War setting, and Pushpakumara’s debut begins well with a tense scene involving a bus full of elderly women and young children. However, before long the film’s multiple narratives become tangled and unbalanced, with none of them giving an expectant audience much to get their teeth into.

The film essentially hinges on a final crescendo of violence (think the Satan-denouncing scene from Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather [1972] for a reference point), which works as a physical manifestation of the frustration, pain and anger latent within the portrayed community. Violence comes not just from opposing factions, but also within familial frameworks. This dénouement is easily the best-delivered section of the film, yet it unfortunately comes too little, too late and lacks the emotional impact that the subject matter deserves.

Elsewhere, Flying Fish does have further moments of suspense – a tense scene involving a classroom of children and a roaming band of Tamil Tigers stands out – yet these are ultimately spread too thinly to salvage Pushpakumara’s trudging narrative. An air of violence and desperation is palpable throughout the war-ravaged community (a Tamil describes Sri Lanka as a “nation without a country”), but the film’s overriding, melodramatic tone proves an uneasy bedfellow.

For more BFI London Film Festival 2011 coverage, simply follow this link.

Daniel Green