3rd I


(Siri Raja Siri)


Sunday, November 16
Castro Theater, San Francisco
Buy Tickets

Director: Somaratne Dissanayake
Country/Year: Sri Lanka, 2008
Running Time: 88 mins
Format: 35mm
Language: Sinhalese with English subtitles

A gifted boy from a Sri Lankan village wins a scholarship to an elite school in Colombo where he must draw upon the strength of his rural traditions to prove himself and become King Siri. Young Sirimal (Kokila Jayasuriya) loves the simple pleasures of his country life—swimming, playing with his sister, walking through the misty fields to school—but his intelligence and high marks have destined him for greater things. Soon he must adjust to life among the children of the rich and powerful, from fighting the school bully to enduring the blister-inducing shoes of his uniform. When Sirimal wins the lead role of King Siri in the school play, he faces his biggest challenge yet: paying for the elaborate costume.

Inspired by his own experiences, director Somaratne Dissanayake’s uncomplicated film revels in the villagers’ cultural richness and adherence to traditional values. The impoverished characters are the overfed children of the well-to-do, ferried about in SUVs, spoiled with junk food, and too westernized to speak their native Sinhalese.

Cinematographer Channa Deshapriya captures the beauty of Sri Lanka’s rural landscape with a breathtaking hyper-reality, but it is in the details of Sirimal’s everyday life that the film delights.  “Of all the films I did about children, King Siri is a film that appeals to the children’s world very much,” explained the director. And it must appeal to the adults’ world, too; the film has already garnered numerous awards, including a special jury prize at this year’s Mexico International Film Festival. -- Lucy Laird