Directed by Thanesh Gopal / Reviewed by Adva Reichman
The Lamp of Truth is an important film that seeks to shed light about the genocide that took place in Sri Lanka during the 26 years of its civil war. In a painful yet beautiful way, the director unveils the atrocities the war brought on the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. The agony, the displaced citizens, the despair and the fading hope.
In 2009, towards the end of the war, more than 300,00 Tamil civilians were trapped inside the warzone of Vanni. The refugees were encouraged to go to the No Fire Zones, set up by the military, but war spared no place. The local doctors and hospitals worked tirelessly to save lives, even when they had no medical supplies. Tens of thousands, if not more, lost their lives. The medical doctors were the only ones to witness the crimes, and this film is dedicated to them.
The Lamp of Truth follows Dr. Varatharajah’s memories. It begins with his life today, physically in the US, but emotionally unable to free himself from the sights he’d seen and the pain he endured. The PTSD symptoms are harsh, and his nights are sleepless. His daughter, who was also there, is suffering as well and his wife struggles to keep their family together. As Dr. Varatharajahtries to get over his past, we go back and see his journey.
Through the doctor’s story we meet the people and experience a bit of their suffering – The unexpected bombings that mercilessly butcher them, the doctors’ non-stop attempts to treat them and perform surgeries with no adequate OR or tools, the refugees’ helplessness of watching their loved ones die and the unbearable yet humane endeavor at a daily routine. Dr. Varatharajah repeatedly refuses his orders to evacuate,and denies his wife’s pleas to leave before it’s too because he cannot abandon his people.
As the war escalates, he arranges his wife and daughter’s departure, but stays behind,promising them he’ll join them in a matter of days. The military however has different plans and eventually the doctor gets hurt in one of the attacks and is taken hostage. Then, in order to save his own life, he has to publicly recant his allegations and claim there were no civilian casualties. A statement that was devastating and haunted him for years to come.
Thanesh Gopal,the director, revealed his forte by orchestrating complicated scenes, beautiful compositions and a remarkable grand production. His direction was movingand his work with the gifted and talented actors resulted in some heartbreaking moments. The doctor’s performance was on point and his eyes alone gave out all the information I needed in order to feel his pain. The cinematography and use of location gave the film the authenticity it deserved and captured the serenity the site should have had versus the brutality it actually possessed.
The heartwarming score enhanced the stirring scenes while staying true to its origin.The editing was precise, allowing us time with the character while also keeping the flow.