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Deepa Mehta's Funny Boy faces calls for a boycott as criticism mounts

'Funny Boy' film poster by ARRAY 

Deepa Mehta's 'Funny Boy' is facing calls for a boycott as criticism mounts over the lack of Tamil representation in the film and Mehta's links to the Rajapaksa regime. 

The film, which is based on the 1994 novel written by Shyam Selvadurai, follows a queer Tamil boy in the years leading up to the 1983 anti-Tamil pogroms in Colombo, when thousands of Tamils were killed by Sinhala mobs backed by the then UNP government and state forces.

Mehta, the director, who has touted the film to be about the "oppression of minorities", has come under fire over her decision to cast non-Tamils to play Tamil roles in the film which is mostly in Tamil with some English. 

Mehta has also been widely critcised for her close ties to Sri Lanka's prime minister and accused war criminal, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who oversaw the genocidal offensive where tens of thousands of Tamils were killed at the end of the armed conflict in 2009. In 2010, Mehta claimed to have met with Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was serving as President at the time, to discuss her movie 'Midnight's Children' which was filmed on the island. In the credits of the film, Mehta thanked the Sri Lanka's government and military who have been credibly accused of a litany of human rights abuses both in Sri Lankan and abroad during peacekeeping operations.

Funny Boy has been chosen as Canada's Oscars submission for best international film and will be released on Netflix on December 10, 2020.

The Canadian Tamil Congress stated that it had met with Mehta, who “also noted that while the trailer was produced with the unacceptable spoken Tamil, the required audio changes are currently underway to rectify the phonetic mistakes throughout the film and the final movie will be released with the changes implemented”. “Our interest lies in ensuring discussion of this film is informed by the appropriate context,” it concluded stating it was “keen to support projects–whether artistic or otherwise”.

Read more from Sinthujan Varatharajah on Mehta’s links to the Rajapaksas here and on their Instagram page here.

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