Canada. 2020. 109 min
Shot on location and set in Sri Lanka in the 1970s and 80s, FUNNY BOY explores the awakening of sexual identity by a young boy named Arjie set against the backdrop of the civil war. As political tensions escalate to a boiling point between the minority Tamils and the majority Sinhalese, the boy comes of age in a society and family that refuses to embrace differences outside of societal norms. The film mirrors the oppression of the Tamil people with the marginalization Arjie suffers because of who he is and who he loves. FUNNY BOY chronicles a country torn apart by fear and abuse of power, while Arjie’s struggles to find balance and self-love despite the absence of empathy and understanding.
Deepa Mehta is an Oscar-nominated filmmaker whose work is internationally renowned. Her emotionally resonating, award-winning films have played every major film festival, and been sold and distributed around the globe. Her films include the Elemental Trilogy: Earth, Fire, and the Best Foreign Language Oscar nominee, Water; Bollywood/Hollywood, Heaven on Earth and the epic adaptation of Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie’s three-time Booker Prize winning novel; Anatomy of Violence, and most recently the award-winning Funny Boy, which was nominated for several Canadian Screen Awards and won for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score. The film also picked up Best Picture and Best Supporting Performance Female at the 2021 Leo Awards.
For the small screen, Mehta shot the pilot and second episode for the Netflix Original series, Leila, and is the Creative Executive Producer for the show. She also directed The Manager, the pilot episode of Little America for Apple TV as well as the episode Bear Down for Showtime’s critically acclaimed series Yellowjackets. Mehta is currently working as the Writer and Director of Propagate Content’s feature film Burnt Sugar, based on Avni Doshi’s award-winning novel shortlisted for the Booker Prize.
The lack of compassion and humanity, and fear of people who are different from the perceived norm, is the backbone of Funny Boy. What I loved about taking this script to film, was the challenge not only of conveying its essential humanity via Anil and Radha’s love story, and Arjie’s relationship with Shehan, that crosses the religious divide, but also the rumblings of sectarian strife that slowly comes into the forefront of the story. For me, Funny Boy is a quintessentially Canadian story, and could have only been written by a Sri Lankan who had emigrated to Canada. The objectivity that Canada provides, through which we can look at our respective homelands, is I think this country’s greatest gift. It’s what I hope will give us a global understanding of the nature of the ‘Other’.