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Fashion and Identity in Sri Lankan Cinema: An Exhibition of Archival Film Stills, by Athula Samarakoon

Friday, June 15, 2018 at 8:00am to 5:00pm

Mann library, Follett Information Commons

This exhibition explores perceptions and representations of socio-cultural identities across the latter half of the twentieth century in Sri Lanka through cinematic portrayals of clothing fashion.

From the invention of cinema, film fashion has maintained an intimate and complex relationship with “real” fashion. In post-colonial Sri Lanka, film fashion was a key role player in establishing or invalidating dominant identities and popular ideologies. The history of cinema and thus, of film fashion, parallel histories of everyday practices of dressing and self-presentation in Sri Lanka through the past century.

From the 1950s to the 1970s, films helped fuel fascination for filmgoers in Sri Lanka, and the glamorous spirit of film fashion lingered on through the 1980s. By the 1990s, new forms of mass media and entertainment had a larger impact on people’s clothing behavior, and film fashion was no longer a major presence on the scene. However, recent artistic films, with more progressive and realistic representations of social and cultural identities through film fashion, have influenced people with new ideals and ideologies.

Photo credits: Associated News Papers Ceylon, Ltd., National Film Corporation, International Catholic Organization for Cinema and Audiovisual (OCIC), Hemapriya Kandambi Cinema Museum

Athula Samarakoon, a Fulbright Professional Development Fellow, is a Visiting Scholar with the South Asia Program, with a project on “Representing Sri Lanka through Cinematic Image.” He is a film scholar and filmmaker whose main focus is on documentary films. Samarakoon completed his graduate studies at the University of Pune, with a film on Indian Ragamala paintings. He has written articles on Sri Lankan cinema and television, documentaries, and trends in world cinema that have appeared in various journals and publications. Samarakoon is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Fine Arts, at the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka. Most recently, he has been engaged in a documentary film project on marginalized communities in Sri Lanka. He has received support with the US Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) in Sri Lanka for making documentary films that document endangered traditional and indigenous rituals, music and dance forms.



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Asian Studies, South Asia Program, Cornell University Library, Mann Library




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