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FLEFF Intern Voices

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Liuqing Yang at 9:10PM
Professor Sonali Samarasinghe

Blog posting written by Lucy Yang, Journalism and Politics, ’14, FLEFF Blogger, Puyang, Henan, China

Professor Sonali Samarasinghe is an award winning journalist and human rights activist. A native of Sri Lanka, she is the 2012-2014 Ithaca City of Asylum’s writer-in-residence, and Ithaca College has appointed her International Visiting Scholar in Honors for academic year 2012/13 and 2013/14. This year, Professor Samarasinghe serves as one of the jurors for FLEFF’s "The Dissonance Project," a writing contest for high school students.

Lucy Yang: As someone who is behind the scenes, what exactly is your involvement with FLEFF?

Professor Sonali Samarasinghe: I was a guest of FLEFF last year in my capacity as an international writer, an exiled journalist, and the writer in residence of the Ithaca city of Asylum. I was a featured speaker and protagonist in one of the FLEFF films of 2013 shown at Cinemapolis. The film Silenced Voices explores the bitter ethnic and political conflict in Sri Lanka, through the eyes of three journalists [of whom I am one] forced into exile, and who have each suffered immense personal loss due to their journalism. This year I am delighted to have the opportunity to be a juror in one of FLEFF’s many intellectually stimulating projects. In keeping with the broad theme of dissonance and as part of the FLEFF umbrella, I am also teaching a mini course titled “Justice: What’s The Right Thing To Do?”

LY: Do you have to see all the films?

SS: As I am a FLEFF course instructor and juror in the Writing Project, this question may not relate to me in every sense. However, let me say that I will not want to miss any of the films that have been so deliberately and thoughtfully selected, based on the vision and mission of FLEFF. I have found the films to have an intellectual, social and creative value and relevance; they have never failed to provoke, challenge and inspire me. Therefore, I plan to be present at as many of the screenings and events as possible. FLEFF is an embarrassment of riches, full of wonderful things, and it would be to one’s detriment not to take full advantage of what it has to offer. 

LY: What do you think of this year’s theme “dissonance” and how do you relate it to your personal background?

SS: Dissonance is a theme of extreme complexity, and I applaud FLEFF for its boldness in exploring it. We live with discord everyday. For some, every day is a battleground where they are confronted with physical, ideological, psychological, cultural and emotional incongruity. Each of these and more I have grappled with, as a persecuted writer and as a journalist forced into exile. I have come from a toxic political culture that has celebrated brutality and crushed the free spirit. To lose my home, my culture, my work and my family is shocking. The visceral pain can be hard to bear. Yet dissonance in all its forms is to be celebrated, because through conflict comes new beginnings, fresh ideas, evolved thinking and change. Disorder will eventually beget order and without friction the bow cannot make sweet harmony. It is [the] evil that forces you towards the good, death that brings life, and the ugly that draws you to the beautiful.   

The mini course Professor Samarasinghe will be teaching, "Justice: What’s The Right Thing To Do?" will run from March 17 through May 12 on Wednesdays from 3:00 to 4:50 p.m. It will explore the nature of justice by taking advantage of the wonderful films and other events sponsored by FLEFF. Students will be required to attend screenings as part of the course.   

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