Presidential Cinema Awards Night: A Preface | Sunday Observer

Presidential Cinema Awards Night: A Preface

27 August, 2023

The 20th President’s Film Awards will be held on November 14, 2023 under the auspices of President Ranil Wickremesinghe at Nelum Pokuna Theatre:

A unique creation born out of a power of thought that can transcend reality; film is a work of art capable of displaying a cultural identity of a country to the world. This was confirmed by the fact that the world knew about our cinema before a decade passed since the first Sinhala film was made. It was with veteran cinematographer Dr. Lester James Peiris’ film ‘Rekawa’ being presented at the Cannes Film Festival in 1956. In the 76-years of Sinhala cinema, which has undergone various ups and downs, the Presidential Film Awards has a history of two decades.

The Presidential Film Awards, conducted by the National Film Corporation (NFC), is Sri Lanka’s biggest festival for the local film industry and is the only award ceremony where State-sponsored winners are presented with awards and cash prizes. We met the Chairman of the National Film Corporation, Attorney-at-Law Deepal Chandraratne to inquire about this year’s award ceremony to be held at the Nelum Pokuna Theatre in Colombo under the auspices of President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

“The ceremony’s main purpose is to evaluate films released in their respective years and fete the outstanding talents of actors and technicians who contributed to those films in various fields. The Presidential Film Awards is held for the 20th time this year. The last time this award ceremony was held was in 2019. Although it was not possible to hold the award ceremony in the last three years due to the Covid pandemic, the Minister of Mass Media, Transport and Highways Dr. Bandula Gunawardena held several important discussions regarding the progress of the film industry following my appointment as Chairman of the NFC last year. The Minister said that as the habit of cinema-going is in the decline among the young generation, urgent measures should be taken to create a new cinema culture in the country that can attract people. He also understands the need to promote cinema as an art as well as an industry. So under the guidance of Minister Dr. Gunawardena, the NFC will organise the Presidential Film Awards under the direction of the Secretary of the Ministry of Mass Media, Anusha Palpita.

Forty two films - 30 films screened in 2019 and 12 films screened in 2020, will be evaluated this year. There are twenty five awards under 25 categories and 19 awards under 19 main categories such as Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Lyricist etc. The other six awards are for Best Audience Response, Special Jury Merit Awards, Merit Awards, Pioneer Awards, Universal Fame Awards and Golden Lion Award.

Pioneer Awards and Golden Lion Awards are once-in-a-lifetime awards for an artist, whereas the Golden Lion Award is given only once a year. The Pioneer Mission Award is given to two individuals in one year. Both the Special Jury Merit Award and the Jury Merit Award are determined at the discretion of the jury. The Vishwa Keerthi Award is given to films that have been recognised at international film award ceremonies in the year under consideration.

The Presidential Film Awards was established after the National Film Corporation Act No. 47 of 1971, amended by Act No. 45 of 1980, to hold a film festival to pay tribute to Sri Lankan filmmakers, said Chandana Rupasinghe, Assistant General Manager of the NFC. The Presidential Film Awards were first held in 1979 during President J.R. Jayewardene’s tenure. Anton Wickramasinghe was the chairman of the NFC at that time.

All arrangements are being made to hold this year’s Presidential Film Festival in a very regal and impressive manner. Kamani Silva, managing assistant of the NFC said that this year’s awards will be a very colourful occasion. She also said that this year’s film festival will include five performances including dance performances and songs from local films that are currently being screened.

Chandraratne said that the jury consisting of five academics started evaluating nominees on August 20. Although this is a very challenging time, the Chairman also expressed hope that steps will be taken to elevate the industry by overcoming challenges soon, thanks to the thoughtful intervention of the Minister Dr. Gunawardena and contribution of all related parties.

The Presidential Film Awards, which is being held after three years, will surely be a wonderful opportunity to awaken Sri Lanka’s dormant film industry.


PiC: Sudath Nishantha