Production by Kurukulle films

“Teardrop on Fire: Breaking the Silence in Sri Lanka” is a feature length documentary film centered around true stories of victims and survivors of gender based violence captured through the lens of contemporary Sri Lankan society. The film gives a platform to the voiceless – marginalized individuals suffering from abuse, domestic violence, rape, assault, molestation, and harassment in a society engulfed by a culture that conceals shame through silence. These courageous women, men and children share their challenges and fears to find a path to recovery, strength and freedom to emerge from their hopelessness.

Production by Kurukulle films

“Teardrop on Fire: Breaking the Silence in Sri Lanka” is a feature length documentary film centered around true stories of victims and survivors of gender based violence captured through the lens of contemporary Sri Lankan society. The film gives a platform to the voiceless – marginalized individuals suffering from abuse, domestic violence, rape, assault, molestation, and harassment in a society engulfed by a culture that conceals shame through silence. These courageous women, men and children share their challenges and fears to find a path to recovery, strength and freedom to emerge from their hopelessness.

About the Film

Teardrop on Fire - Breaking the Silence in Sri Lanka

The film is a collage of various subjects who share their stories of abuse. Some of the subjects are victims, still living with their abusers and others are survivors who have broken free. We traveled around the island filming women, men, and children who represent the diverse make-up of contemporary Sri Lankan society. In doing so, the film demonstrates that the problem of gender based violence is pervasive throughout all levels of society, regardless of socio-economic status, ethnicity, or religion.

Sexual harassment, domestic violence and abuse are universal issues that plague society all over the world. Patriarchy and disregard for the sacred feminine has brought humanity to an all-time low resulting in femicide, rape, environmental destruction, porn/drug/alcohol addiction, and war. Feminism is on the rise globally as women are joining the #MeToo movement and finding strength in numbers as they stand up and speak out against the abuse.

Sri Lanka’s statistics for sexual harassment, rape, and domestic violence are alarmingly high. Sri Lankan women and foreign women alike experience violence daily both inside and outside the home. Why is a majority Buddhist country so violent to its women? A country that relies heavily on the tourist sector for its gross national product should take heed to not scare female tourists and investors away.

Sri Lanka is touted as the #1 travel destination in the world, surpassing Bali and Thailand as a tropical getaway for singles and families to explore beach and rainforest jungle, known as the “Teardrop of the Indian Ocean.” Yogis, surfers, digital nomads, hipsters, animal and nature lovers, artists and musicians, healers and spiritual seekers are all drawn to the original Garden of Eden in the Indian Ocean. Yet, lurking in the shadows of this paradise lies a hidden underworld of crime, drugs and alcohol addiction, rape, and violence. The toxic masculinity mixed with the poverty and desperation of this developing country allow for a culture of violence against women.

Sri Lankan women and girls live in a culture of silence where domestic violence is normalized and condoned. Sexual harassment and assault are rampant both outside and inside the home. The police are complicit. Sri Lanka is in its first wave of feminism. Local women’s rights organizations, NGOs, and social media initiatives are growing in number. This documentary will partner with and highlight these groups.

Foreign women have been conned through love fraud out of money, business, and property. They have been physically, emotionally, and financially abused. Used for their investment to purchase land and start businesses in the growing tourism sector, these women are then physically and emotionally abused and subsequently chased off the island. Female tourists are raped, harassed and assaulted in alarming numbers.

The vision for this doc is to shine a light on the plight of all women in Sri Lanka and thus give voice to victims and survivors as well as their advocates. In doing so women and men alike will be educated and empowered to speak up against violence and shift the culture away from victim blaming and shame into respect and equality where all women can live in safety. Through interviews, original research, expository footage, and social media evidence this film will expose the current challenges facing Sri Lankan society and how to help it evolve.

 

The film is currently in mid-production. We have produced a 28 minute short film that presents the problems of the issues but not any pathways to solutions. Our subjects have grasciously shared their harrowing stories with us but we have no idea what we will find upon our return when we visit the subjects again. Will they have left their abusers? Will they have filed legal action against the perpetrators? Have they started new lives and secured financial independence? Or have they fallen further into the cycle of abuse and hopelessness?

As production continues in the next stage, we will be interviewing more allies and advocates who help women and children escape abusive situations. We will visit several different shelters and organizations and interview the victims and survivors who are seeking refuge there. Due to the COVID lockdown during the first phase of production we were unable to film at the shelters. We look forward to capturing some new stories of hope and resilience when we are finally able to film at the shelters. We also plan to interview various lawyers and activists who are tirelessly helping to bring awareness and shift the culture. It is planned and hoped that the second phase of filming will result in a more comprehensive narrative that shows not only the desperation and plight of victims and survivors, but offers solutions and a sense of hope for the future.

Sexual harassment, domestic violence and abuse are universal issues that plague society all over the world. Patriarchy and disregard for the sacred feminine has brought humanity to an all-time low resulting in femicide, rape, environmental destruction, porn/drug/alcohol addiction, and war. Feminism is on the rise globally as women are joining the #MeToo movement and finding strength in numbers as they stand up and speak out against the abuse.

Sri Lanka’s statistics for sexual harassment, rape, and domestic violence are alarmingly high. Sri Lankan women and foreign women alike experience violence daily both inside and outside the home. Why is a majority Buddhist country so violent to its women? A country that relies heavily on the tourist sector for its gross national product should take heed to not scare female tourists and investors away.

Sri Lanka is touted as the #1 travel destination in the world, surpassing Bali and Thailand as a tropical getaway for singles and families to explore beach and rainforest jungle, known as the “Teardrop of the Indian Ocean.” Yogis, surfers, digital nomads, hipsters, animal and nature lovers, artists and musicians, healers and spiritual seekers are all drawn to the original Garden of Eden in the Indian Ocean. Yet, lurking in the shadows of this paradise lies a hidden underworld of crime, drugs and alcohol addiction, rape, and violence. The toxic masculinity mixed with the poverty and desperation of this developing country allow for a culture of violence against women.

Sri Lankan women and girls live in a culture of silence where domestic violence is normalized and condoned. Sexual harassment and assault are rampant both outside and inside the home. The police are complicit. Sri Lanka is in its first wave of feminism. Local women’s rights organizations, NGOs, and social media initiatives are growing in number. This documentary will partner with and highlight these groups.

Foreign women have been conned through love fraud out of money, business, and property. They have been physically, emotionally, and financially abused. Used for their investment to purchase land and start businesses in the growing tourism sector, these women are then physically and emotionally abused and subsequently chased off the island. Female tourists are raped, harassed and assaulted in alarming numbers.

The vision for this doc is to shine a light on the plight of all women in Sri Lanka and thus give voice to victims and survivors as well as their advocates. In doing so women and men alike will be educated and empowered to speak up against violence and shift the culture away from victim blaming and shame into respect and equality where all women can live in safety. Through interviews, original research, expository footage, and social media evidence this film will expose the current challenges facing Sri Lankan society and how to help it evolve.

The film is currently in mid-production. We have produced a 28 minute short film that presents the problems of the issues but not any pathways to solutions. Our subjects have grasciously shared their harrowing stories with us but we have no idea what we will find upon our return when we visit the subjects again. Will they have left their abusers? Will they have filed legal action against the perpetrators? Have they started new lives and secured financial independence? Or have they fallen further into the cycle of abuse and hopelessness?

As production continues in the next stage, we will be interviewing more allies and advocates who help women and children escape abusive situations. We will visit several different shelters and organizations and interview the victims and survivors who are seeking refuge there. Due to the COVID lockdown during the first phase of production we were unable to film at the shelters. We look forward to capturing some new stories of hope and resilience when we are finally able to film at the shelters. We also plan to interview various lawyers and activists who are tirelessly helping to bring awareness and shift the culture. It is planned and hoped that the second phase of filming will result in a more comprehensive narrative that shows not only the desperation and plight of victims and survivors, but offers solutions and a sense of hope for the future.

Team

JESSICA PALDEN

(DIRECTOR, WRITER, PRODUCER)

is a survivor of domestic violence. She is passionate about this issue because it’s personal. Her backstory and motivation to be an advocate for others is fueling this project. Once she left her abuser and started to heal, she found it therapeutic and healing to reach out to other survivors and share her story. As she started to realize that she was not alone she was encouraged to start writing about her experience and researching the topic of abuse. She continued to network with other women in Sri Lanka and join their efforts. She is hopeful that change is possible and very encouraged by the many NGOs and initiatives being led by Sri Lankan and foreign women in Sri Lanka. She is looking forward to highlighting them in this film. Jessica is a native of New York and has a background in the arts, in theater production and writing. She studied Theater and French at the University of Vermont and the University of Paris where she acted in, directed, and stage managed many productions. In her early career she was a performer, most notably as an original cast member of the Edinburgh Fringe First award winning production of “Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens” and also touring internationally with “Cirque Ingenieux.” Jessica is also the self-published author of “Lotus Love: A Cross-Cultural Tibetan-American Memoir” which she completed as a creative thesis for her Master’s Degree in Liberal Arts from Excelsior College She was an educator for 15 years and is a practitioner of Buddhism of nearly 30 years. During her tenure as a French teacher, she directed high school musicals and plays. She has lived in the US, France, India, Tibet, and Sri Lanka. She moved to Sri Lanka in 2016 to start a business in the tourist industry with her Sri Lankan boyfriend and business partner. She became the victim of emotional, physical and financial abuse. Four years later she is now channeling her experience and passion into this film. She currently lives in Albany, NY where she lives with her two sons. Her daughter is a film major at The New School.

HASITHA WARNASOORIYA

(DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY, PRODUCER)

is a cinematographer based in Colombo, Sri Lanka and has over 8 years of experience filming tv series, tv commercials, music videos, web series and also documentaries both locally and internationally. He is well adapted to both studio and location shoots, which allows him the freedom of collaborating with both large and small- scale productions. Since 2011, he has been actively involved in Sri Lankan music video productions for which he has won multiple awards, including the DMVA Awards in 2014 for Best Cinematographer. However, the turning point in his career was the creation of the now well- known tv series “Koombiyo” (Ants), noted as a series that has changed the landscape of local television. He was one of the two cinematographers who won the Raigam Tele Awards for best cinematography for this tv series. His first international documentary was “Life Among Monkeys” with Terra Mater Studios, Austria. He believes that his key strength lies in his knack for capturing the natural beauty in landscapes, architecture, and people which covers a range of styles and disciplines from bright, aspirational lifestyle pieces, to compelling, moody, and dramatic scenes.

VIRGIL THOMAS

(PRODUCTION MANAGER, PRODUCER)

is a doctor by profession and production enthusiast who has been involved in several community and documentary projects over the last 6 years. Within this time period he has worked with the United Nations, World Health Organization, International Labor Organization, Centre for Equality and Justice, Global Fund for Women and the British Council as a freelance production and financial manager for Ruvin de Silva Photography. This project is very personal to him as a medical professional who has encountered a number of cases of domestic violence in Bangladesh where he was initially trained as a medical officer. Sadly, most of these cases go undetected or ignored in these regions and the victims become voiceless or unheard. As a child brought up in a healthy, blessed environment, thanks to his loving parents, he understands the quality of life most families are deprived of due to domestic violence and therefore wishes to contribute both professionally and personally to make a change in lives.

DOYEL DAWSON

(CO-PRODUCER, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR)

At 25 years old, Doyel is as versatile as she is passionate, she has danced across both stages and restaurant floors. From studying performing arts from a young age to working in management within the hospitality field in Hong Kong, to becoming a full-time activist in Sri Lanka, Doyel has a wide set of skills and experiences she can bring to the table. Having placed 2nd runner up at Miss Intercontinental Sri Lanka 2019, Doyel has been prolific with the use of her platform to broach conversations on the topics of women’s rights and animal welfare. Not one to simply speak on issues, Doyel runs Dogs of Ella, a rescue shelter based in Sri Lanka, and provides aid and sanctuary to women at risk. Having been someone who has experienced sexual violence from a young age, Doyel has always been very vocal regarding the subject. After moving back to her mother country in Sri Lanka, she realized just how high the level of abuse against women here could escalate. After her own encounters with sexual predators and after meeting several tourists and local women who had suffered at the hands of men within the country, Doyel made it a point to help bring awareness towards the issue. Doyel’s long term plan is to open a shelter for women and children, that provides free legal aid, supportive therapy, along with vocational training, to ensure that the victims of abuse can find their footing in the world again.