The multi-award nominee, No Fire Zone:The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka documentary premiered in the UK today, with its first official screening taking place in Soho, London.
The documentary, outlines what happened to the 400,000 Tamil civilians that were trapped in the government designated 'no fire zone' and then subjected to relentless and sustained shelling, resulting in, what the UN estimates to be, the death of over 70,000 civilians.
The film was screened to a fully packed audience, consisting of several human rights activists, journalists and lawyers, at the Curzon in Soho.
Without a seat to spare, the screening started promptly after a few opening remarks from the Producer Zoe Sale.
The film was tailed by a short question and answer session between Channel 4 news reporter, Jon Snow, the film’s director, Callum Macrae and contributors from the audience.
Leading the discussion Jon Snow outlined the need for the horrific information brought forward in the documentary to be conveyed around the world. Reiterating the need to educate diplomats attending the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) he stated,
“no-one attending CHOGM should go ignorant of the war crimes exposed in the No Fire Zone documentary.”
Macrae went on to outline that the hosting of CHOGM in Sri Lanka undoubtedly disregarded the Commonwealth principles that were reaffirmed recently and at the last CHOGM meeting which he reported on in Australia.
Responding to Jon Snow’s queries on how the Sri Lankan government were allowed to carry out such atrocities in 2009, the film director, Callum Macrae , outlined,
“Sri Lanka had an extraordinary alliance with the International Community, which they upheld with the false idea of the War on Terror. So the international community effectively turned a blind eye as the government committed atrocities in the name of the war on terror.”
Tackling queries about the impact on tourism in Sri Lanka, Macrae, regrettably noted that this year , Sri Lanka was featured as a must visit holiday destination in the ‘Lonely Planet’ traveller’s guide, and that films documentaries like No Fire Zone would have to be spread as far as possible to promote ethical tourism.
A further member of the audience, noted to the audience that there was a very politically active Tamil community in the United Kingdom that people could gain insight on the problem in the North-East of Sri Lanka by working with them.
Further contributing to the comments on CHOGM a renowned international human rights and former member of the Twentieth Century Task Force to Apprehend War Criminals, Bianca Jagger, overwhelmed by the compelling evidence of war crimes against Tamil civilians, implored the crowed to stand together and demand that the UK does not attend CHOGM.
When asked, by Tamil Guardian, about the response he received when screening the documentary at the United Nations, and whether he intended to report from the upcoming CHOGM in Sri Lanka, Macrae responded,
“The film had an extraordinary effect at the United Nations, The Sri Lankan government have stopped sending their supporting nations to see the film because the content was so undeniable. It is important that we get this out to the non-aligned nations so that they can take a well-informed stance on Sri Lanka.”
“I will try my best to gain accreditation and report from CHOGM, however I have received several intimidating death threats from elements in Sri Lanka.”
On the topic of CHOGM, Jon Snow further added,
“We intend to report from Sri Lanka, and realise that they are obliged to provide us our Visas”
Speaking at the end of the discussion, Suren Surendiran, a senior spokesperson of the Global Tamil Forum, urged people that were moved by the documentary, to write to their local MP’s and express their discontent of Prime Minister David Cameron’s engagement with Sri Lanka at CHOGM.
The screening session ended with the producers of the film reiterating , the need for the No Fire Zone campaign to be funded in order to ensure that the message could be taken to diplomatic missions around the world.
Speaking to Tamil Guardian in the reception that followed screening of the documentary, Bianca Jagger, stressed that truth, accountability and justice in Sri Lanka would first have to be achieved before true reconciliation could occur.
The No Fire Zone documentary is set to go on a worldwide awareness building tour and looks to receive funding to effectively implement its endeavours. See the No Fire Zone website for more information. Click here to rent and stream the documentary.