I started using the library at the British Council in the 1980s. The library was the key resource place for information and had many of the books I wanted to read on cinema. I spent hours and hours reading in the library and borrowing books so that I could read at home. I was a school kid and that was the first time I saw so many books on cinema in one place. I was born and living in Panadura which is 17 miles away from Colombo.
First, I came to read books on cinema. After some time, I started to attend film screenings at the British Council. Later, I photo-documented many projects of the British Council Society Programme and engaged with other activities as a trainer. Much later I made films and even curated film programmes for the British Council.
I am grateful for the British Council for providing a platform for me to develop as a filmmaker, photographer and a curator.
A very memorable project for me was the workshop and subsequent exhibition ‘Me and my Environment’, which took place in the early 2000s This project involved children from 8 border villages, where we trained them in photography as a means of expression. We gave them low-cost user-friendly cameras to take home and take photos and we had provincial exhibitions. At the final national exhibition in Colombo, some critics couldn’t believe that children actually took those photos, but after hearing the process and interviewing some of them they realised the children’s talent.
Last year in 2019, we at Agenda14 presented the first Colombo International Women’s Film Festival and the day before the awards ceremony the British Council announced that they will fund some short films directed by women. We received a film production grant to make five films with female filmmakers and it was a pleasant surprise too.
I walked into the British Council library nearly four decades ago looking for books on cinema and I have never left. I am grateful for the British Council for providing a platform for me to develop as a filmmaker, photographer and a curator. My sincere desire is that the new generation will also benefit from this space that the British Council has created for art and culture.