CONFLICT: The never before told story of Sri Lanka’s Tamil women fiercely fighting for their sovereignty.
Dieter Wieczorek
Wieczorek is a film critic and regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: March 3, 2020

That history is written by the winners is an often-approved fact. However, if the losers lose even a recognisable existence and are deprecated from basic human rights – cultural sovereignty, freedom of speech and reunion – the question of dominance turns into one of crime. This factual situation of Tamils in today’s Sri Lanka is the political and social frame of Agnieszka Zwiefka’s documentary Scars.

A portrait

Conceptually she chooses the form of a portrait. Vetrichelvi is a middle-aged who was with the Tamil Tigers, the group who fought a restless war for a sovereign Tamil state after years of discrimination by the Sinhalese majority. The narrow personal perspective – only sometimes interrupted by metaphorical images, like women walking in the night – allow Zwiefka an intimate view on what the Tamils suffer and support today. Vetrichelvi lost her hand and one eye in the battles, but she never doubted that her fight has been just. Half of the other combatants have also been women, very young when they entered the war. Vetrichelvi sought these women out to find out what happened to them and what they think today.

This is no an easy task, because the 25 years long civil war, – having just ended in 2009 – claimed around 100,000 victims. Thousands have also disappeared. The women Vetrichelvi finally does find are mostly corporally affected with missing limbs. The worst of her encounters is a woman who lost half of her face and now prefers isolated living. But even she does not regret being active in this ultimately lost battle. Here, the tasteful camera work of Kacper Czubak has to be pointed out. acting on the fragile border between not hiding the most shocking physical damages and still not allowing a voyeuristic view on these women, keeping their dignity as intact as possible.

That history is written by the winners is an often-approved fact

These painful meetings lead Vetrichelvi to the founding of an organisation for disabled women, who now mostly live isolated and abandoned. They need a place for togetherness, for communication, a place which even – Zwiefka captures these precious moments – allows them to laugh and dance from time. What is even more needed, is a place to take care of each other as the women …

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