A painting of me

No More Tears Sister

   30 March 2006, late evening

I watched No More Tears Sister again tonight with my parents; I bought them a copy of the DVD. The film is about the Tamil human rights activist Dr. Rajani Thiranagama, who was murdered by the LTTE in 1989. The movie is a pretty good introduction to the conflict in Sri Lanka, although its focus is always on Rajani and her sister Nirmala, who was also a fairly famous activist. (Nirmala was the first female political prisoner held by Sri Lankan government. My parents remember when she was broken out of jail by the LTTE in the early 80s; It was quite the news in London.) There are some brilliant photos of the LTTE cadres featured in the film. I am curious who took them and where they came from; they really are quite amazing. Much of the story in the movie is told by Rajani’s family: her sisters, husband, and daughters. It is pretty touching at times, and this gives the movie a very human feel. Rajani’s youngest daughter plays her in various flashbacks during the film. I imagine this must have been very hard for her daughter to do—in particular filming the shot where she is laying in the street dead. How does one participate in the reenactment of their mothers death?

My family is from Jaffna. My mom remembers Rajani from there. Apparently she would ride a boys bike around town. Women riding bikes in Jaffna was scandalous back in the day; I’m not entirely sure why. (I might be generalizing here: I suspect it’s just my family that was particularly purantical but I suppose I’ll never know for sure.)

I saw this film at the Hot Docs festival last year. I enjoyed it then, but didn’t feel like writing about it at the time. Even now I don’t know what to say about the film. I think it’s well put together, and is something people interested in Sri Lankan politics should definitely watch. The movie paints the LTTE in a fairly dark light. (The movie is about how the LTTE killed this particular woman, so clearly they aren’t going to come out looking nice.) My (Tamil) friends who watched the film the same night I did were not as impressed with the film as I was. Sometimes I feel like Tamil people feel obligated to hate anything that points out the uglier side of the LTTE.

The official No More Tears Sister web site. The movie is being discussed at Samudaya , Film Gecko, and the BBC. The name of the movie comes from a chapter in the book Rajani co-wrote called The Broken Palmyra.



  1. Where is the best place to buy this DVD…I am Mumbai and London-based? Tnx

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