ONLINE SCREENING: Tuesday 5 to Sunday 10 April 2022

Organised with Spike Island


From Tuesday 5 to Sunday 10 April, watch Laleen Jayamanne’s A Song of Ceylon (1985) streaming on-demand via this web page, alongside a specially commissioned response by artist, research and film programmer Natasha Thembiso Ruwona.

A Song of Ceylon is a study of colonialism, gender and the body. It stages and interprets a Sri Lankan ritual of spirit possession and cure, and takes the form of a stylised non-narrative film that presents an audio-visual montage of ‘possessed bodies’. Its title refers to Basil Wright’s 1934 documentary The Song of Ceylon about the then British colony of Ceylon, renamed Sri Lanka in 1972. Invoking the idea of absence and of history withdrawn, Jayamanne’s film pursues a rite of the body.


“The anthropological text is performed both like a musical score and a theatrical ritual….The film engages the viewer in the cinematic body as spectacle…”


Laleen Jayamanne studied at the University of Ceylon, Sri Lanka and holds a MA from New York University and a PhD from the University of New South Wales. She taught Cinema Studies at the University of Sydney and is the author of many books including The Epic Cinema of Kumar Shahani (Indiana University Press, 2015) and The Poetic Cinema and the Spirit of the Gift in the Films of Pabst, Paradjanov, Kubrick and Ruiz (Amsterdam University Press, 2021).

Natasha Thembiso Ruwona is a Scottish-Zimbabwean artist, researcher and film programmer. They explore Afrofuturist storytelling through the poetics of the landscape, working across various media including; digital performance, film and writing. Natasha’s practice is research based and investigates racialised spatialisation in line with Black Feminist Geographies; the recognition of spaces and places in relation to Black identities, as they seek to exclude, further oppress and erase Black communities.


This event is presented in partnership with Spike Island, and supported by Arts Council England. It forms part of a new Cinenova programme titled The Work We Share – a programme of 10 newly digitised films from the Cinenova collection, captioned by Collective Text alongside 10 new artist response commissions, touring the UK throughout 2021-22.