Sanjeewa Pushpakumara / 2015, Busan, Rotterdam, Anonimul, FCAAAL Milan, Göteborg, International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights Geneva, Jafna, Jogja-Netpac Asian Film Festival, Kazan, Lake Como, Locarno, Munich, Pune, Tokyo FILMeX, Valencia, Valletta, / 84'
1989, a small town in Eastern Sri Lanka. Suspected of harboring oppositional political views, Kusum's husband has been abducted and murdered by an illegal militia of government soldiers, leaving her to care for their eight children. Kusum works breaking stones at a nearby quarry, an occupation that affords her enough money to feed the children and buy her daughter a dress for school. After refusing her boss's advances, Kusum is confronted with both physical and sexual abuse— yet she remains tenacious on her path to survival.
Capturing the airless existence of a mother determined to prevail no matter the cost, Burning Birds offers a lucid portrait of Sri Lanka's turbulent political history. Sanjeewa Pushpakumara's second film premiered at Busan, Rotterdam, Göteborg; International Film Festival for Human Rights, where it won the Grand Prix; and Tokyo FILMeX, where it won the Special Jury Prize.
"A poised, harrowing tale… As Kusum, Janadari delivers a powerfully rugged tour de force. Shunning easy histrionics, the veteran actor offers a remarkable performance showcasing her character's silent, stoic spirit— a Sri Lankan Sisyphus struggling against insurmountable odds but persisting nevertheless. Juxtaposing her toils with wide, wild and windswept landscapes, Burning Birds is a blistering social and artistic statement"
"Director Sanjeewa Pushpakumara elaborately explains the efforts on the part of the widow and the other members of the family to eke out a living, while overcoming the difficulties imposed on them by society. Kusum bravely faces all the risks she encounters in the many odd jobs she performs, to ensure the sustenance of her eight children and her mother in law. Meanwhile, she is compelled to face various critical situations. Against this background, Burning Birds has succeeded in presenting a discourse with depth, and yet, simple. The manner in which the director presents the story through the aesthetic cinema, is praiseworthy"
- Indunil Usgoda Arachchi, Film Review, Sunday Observer
"Combining the art of cinema with talent and commitment to human rights, the filmmaker unveils the situation in Sri Lanka and courageously denounces the harsh reality of women living in war contexts"