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Funny Boy

(Sri Lanka, some parts in English and English subtitles): This film is a coming-of-age story of a boy, Arjie, growing up gay in Sri Lanka during the civil war between the Tamil and Sinhalese ethnic groups. We see him first probably around 8 years old, in a mock wedding in which he is dressed up as the bride and another girl from the neighborhood is the groom. While his father is concerned about him being a “funny boy”, his Aunt Radha encourages his differentness. The film then jumps to Arjie as a teenager attending a preparatory school, where the tension between the two ethnic groups plays out regularly. I liked the movie; it was an interesting twist on the coming-out genre in that it takes place in a country where homosexuality is illegal. I liked the backdrop of the civil war, learning a bit of the history of the conflict. I do think that the ethnic conflict, which is the backdrop to the core story, is not really presented very well for someone who is not familiar with that history. I had to go to Wikipedia afterward and get more of the context about the bloodiness of the conflict and what seems to have been an attempt at ethnic cleansing within the country. I always enjoy coming of age/coming out stories, particularly ones that offer a different perspective, and this one did that. It offers a portrait of two young men who are comfortable with themselves but living in a context that creates challenges to their relationship.  The director, Deepa Mehta, who is Indian, has a history of making films that tackle taboo subjects, one of which I remember the most is the wonderful Fire. This film is not as strong as fire, but Funny Boy gets a solid thumbs up from me. This was Canada’s submission for the 2021 Academic Award Best International Film, but I understand that because of rules about the amount of English language, it was disqualified. (2020; 3.5 Stars)

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