Ceylon International Film Festival Dances To A Historic Conclusion

The second edition of Ceylon International Film Festival (CEYIFF) culminated on October 28 with a swanky, red carpet awards gala and reception.  Fulfilling CEYIFF’s mission of cultural exchange, South Asian and Hispanic dancers shared the stage for very likely the first time in the 150 year history of Santa Barbara’s Lobero Theater.

The film festival itself ran from October 23 – 28 with 22 films, shorts and features, from 10 countries shown at Direct Relief International in Goleta and at the Lobero.  During the gala on Saturday, 16 juried awards and two lifetime achievement awards were presented by local dignitaries and industry representatives, interwoven with live dance and music performances.

The evening was introduced by dynamic CEYIFF Founder, Aruni Boteju, and elegantly co-hosted by CEYIFF Managing Director, Ruwani Horanage and Medini Ratnayake.

Spoorthi Jithander, an Indian movie “playback singer” from Los Angeles, blew the venerable roof off the Lobero with 10 one minute performances from 10 songs in 6 languages:  Telegu, Tamil, Sinhala, Hindi, English and Spanish.  The crowd was enthralled.  She also sang a lilting duet with CEYIFF Programming Director, Sudesh Manogodage, an accomplished singer and composer.

Eleven year old Mia Rodriguez from Santa Barbara-based Rose Marie Cruz Dance and Entertainment danced a solo paso doble, meaning “double step” in English, a fast-paced and challenging dance genre that originated in Spain.

Representing the dance of Sri Lanka, 17 year old Dewmini Wickramaranthna, from Los Angeles, performed a Kandyan Dance from the tea plantation hill country of central Sri Lanka replete with its vibrant costume, including a spire-like headdress, distinctive movements and dramatic, drum-driven music.

From the Savitrhi Dance Academy, Los Angeles, 24-year-old dancer Vinaini Jayasinghe gave a stunning Bharatha Natyam performance, a technically complex dance holding a fixed upper body, the learning of which is a rite of passage for young South Asian girls.

Lastly, Alma de Mexico, a treasured staple of the Santa Barbara dance scene performed a rousing traditional Mexican folk dance, as they have numerous times during fiesta, filling the stage with movement and color.

The juxtaposition of these South Asian and Spanish dance forms revealed their connectedness; the vivid costumes, dramatic poses, kinetic footwork and, most importantly, the unbridled exuberance.  Hopefully, the event is the start of a wonderful, continuing cross-cultural collaboration.

Happy Ending from Japan won Best Picture and Best Actress as well as a few others.  It was their night.  A full list of CEYIFF 2023 winners can be found on the festivals website, www.ceyiff.com.

Catered by Los Agaves with wine provided by Donna and Patrick Will, the reception in the Lobero Courtyard was a cosmopolitan and uniquely lively mash up of folks from Los Angeles and Santa Barbara of South Asian, Hispanic and European ancestry.  It was a fitting ending to a delightful evening and festival.

Mahil Senathirajah

Written by Mahil Senathirajah

Mahil Senathirajah is an independent film consultant and contributing writer to edhat.com

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