Tigers Don’t Get Bail


Director:  Visakesa Chandrasekaram

Cast:  Sivakumar LingeswaranKamalasiri Mohan KumarThurkka Magendran

Running Time: 100 minutes

Languages: Tamil with English Subtitles

Festival: Durban International Film Festival (DIFF)

Sri Lankan director Visakesa Chandrasekaram film Munnel had its international premiere at the International Film Festival Rotterdam earlier in 2023 and revolves around a Tamil militant Rudran played by Sivakumar Lingeswaran who returns home injured and is cared for by his strong willed old fashioned mother while searching for his missing girlfriend Vaani played by Thurkka Magendran.

Munnel is set away from the bustling metropolis of Colombo and is filmed in a very rural part of Sri Lanka whereby Rudran and his mother are living in almost poverty stricken conditions as they are fiercely protective of their own lives despite dreams of smarter things. Rudran played with a sort of stubborn arrogance by Sivakumar Lingeswaran is keen on buying a Samsung phone but he cannot afford it and he tells his mother of the wonders of new technology including Facebook and Instagram. Colombo is glimpsed at in flashbacks like an elusive city which excludes the indigent.

While Rudran is hanging out with the local village guys there is a court case brewing about his involvement as a militant in the infamous group the Tamil Tigers. Rudran was arrested for committing atrocities and crimes during the nearly four decade long Sri Lankan civil war from 1983 to 2009.

Munnel or the English translation Sand is a fascinating tale of a mother and a son whose innocence or guilt is never fully established right up until the end of the film. As the director wraps Munnel in traditional Tamil rituals and also highlights the sense of community in which the mother and son dwell even if there lingers suspicion amongst the villagers that Rudran could be guilty.

To a non-Western audience, there will be many cultural references which will be missed while watching Munnel, nevertheless it is a fascinating Sri Lankan film about the horrors of civil war and the focus on a militant that comes home only to be haunted by his past deeds. Incidentally Munnel was shot in 2019 amidst rolling blackouts, fuel shortages and a cost of living crisis in Sri Lanka.

After its world premiere at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Munnel was a welcome addition to the films screened at the 44th Durban International Film Festival in July 2023.

As a fascinating mostly rural set Sri Lankan film, Munnel gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10 and is slow moving in parts but is worth seeing even if it is to catch a glimpse of an exotic country in which there exists very little external media coverage.

Worth seeing but many of the traditional religious scenes will be lost on Western audiences if they are not familiar with Tamil customs and rituals.

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