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Ceylon, 1957 (MIFF 1960, Programme 7)

Director: Lester Peries

Rekava is the first Sinhalese feature to come to Australia. It tells the story of a young boy, Sena, who saves from thieves a travelling entertainer who prophesies he will become a great healer. A little girl, Anulu, a friend of Sena's, goes temporarily blind, and when she recovers her sight it is believed he has cured her. Sena is now famous and his father, a pickpocket, and the village money-lender decide to exploit the boy, but the next person on whom Sena lays his hands dies. It is not long before the whole village has turned against Sena and his mother, blaming him for the drought and for every other misfortune with which they have been affiliated lately. Forced to attend a devil-dance, he proves his innocence by not showing any fear. The father of the boy who died under Sena's hands will not be appeased and tries to strangle him. But at the crucial moment the rains come and peace returns to the village.

A successful entrant at the 1957 Cannes Festival, Rekava, made with non-professional actors, deals with the custom and life of Ceylon. A simple story of village life, it was entirely shot on location and filmed with a winning sensitivity and lyrical feeling by a new director, Lester Peries.

It is a beautiful film visually, the photography being continually seductive. Casual in construction, leisurely in pace, the film's main faults are an occasional slip in continuity and some naivety in characterisation, but the affection and sympathy which the director brings to his village chronicle compensate for these. Like films from other oriental countries there is something of unreality, except perhaps in scenes such as near the end where, suddenly, there is a drought, and shots of a river bed show cattle hopelessy nuzzling for water in the dry and crusted valley. The rains come as suddenly as did the drought, and the film closes on a note of sad reality for the boy who is hounded from his village.

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