.- An award-winning Sri Lankan filmmaker credits the Catholic Church’s media initiatives with having developed and improved the country’s film industry.
Prasanna Vithanage, who won this year’s SIGNIS Sri Lanka Gold Award for directing, said SIGNIS and its predecessor, the International Catholic Organization for Cinema and Audiovisuals (OCIC), served as the breeding ground for many current Sri Lankan filmmakers.
Vithanage told UCA News that, as a boy, he and his friends enjoyed watching and reviewing films at a mini-theater OCIC organized in Colombo. Those experiences provided the inspiration for many filmmakers in the industry today, he said.
"We do not have a film school in Sri Lanka even now," he pointed out. "We learned everything through watching films.” Four of Vithanage’s five films have won SIGNIS golden awards.
The SIGNIS Sri Lanka Awards for film and television are similar to the Academy Awards in the United States. They recognize achievements in various categories. The Aug. 18 gala event drew 400 people this year with Archbishop Oswald Gomis of Colombo and veteran film director Sumithra Peiris as the guests of honor.
Deepthi Fonseka, consulting editor of the newspaper Sarasaviya, agreed about the contribution of the Catholic Church to the Sri Lankan film industry.
"SIGNIS (Sri Lanka) is one of the award ceremonies appreciated by the industry," she told UCA News. "The Catholic Church has made a significant contribution to audiovisual communication over the years. It has helped raise standards in the industry."