Almost from the beginning of the Tulana Research Centre, the media apostolate had been one of its major areas of work. It has been one of Fr. Aloy’s personal concerns even before founding Tulana because no apostolate is possible without engaging in the use of modern means of communication.
In the 1960s, Fr. Aloy started a Film Appreciation Group at the Colombo Jesuit House (Nirmala) for the young CLC members with the encouragement of Fr Chiriatti s.j. and with the collaboration of the film-reviewer, Lawrence Ratnasabhapathi; it was the first ever such group in Sri Lanka. This was before the Lionel Wendt Film Society was established. Later, even when LWFS screened films, often the printed “reviews” of films distributed to the members before screening them were authored by Fr. Aloy under the pseudonym J.S. Sireipyola (his name spelt backwards), a name mistaken to be Spanish by some reviewers!
At Tulana, too, Fr. Aloy started a film appreciation unit in the early eighties and many film artistes (such as Lucien Bulathsinhala and even the young Asoka Handagama long before he became the now famous cinema director, Kuruwita Bandara, the then editor of the Silumina newspaper and brother of film-critic and director Sunil Ariyaratna ……. to name a few) had been following these sessions. Fr. Aloy had about 40 cinema classics on VHS tapes which he bought during his annual visits to Europe. He conceived this as part of Tulana’s educational programme. For Tulana is essentially a centre of education—education imparted at different levels, even for pre-primary hearing impaired children while simultaneously engaging itself in Tertiary Education in collaboration with many universities in the world. From the beginning Tulana had a policy of encouraging also dramas as part of its educational seminars. Besides, Fr. Aloy has made over a 1,000 diapositives on various aspects of Asian religions and cultures, which were used lavishly before the VHS tapes came into vogue. Obviously print media were the most used means of communication at the Centre. So every form of media was abundantly utilized in the Tulana educational apostolate.
Tulana Media Unit (TMU) personnel
1) Robert Crusz (Coordinator)
2) Sanjeewa Dulhan (Technical Director)
3) Ms. Geethika Perera (Administrator / Production Manager)
(a) TMU’s origin and nature
Robert Crusz (see below) joined the Tulana community in 1995 as a Jesuit Lay Associate and the Tulana Media Unit was established in 2000. It uses media production through a non-profit, socio-political and inter-religious liberational activism model, working with rural youth and grassroots, marginalized peoples.
Some of the main objectives of the TMU are :
to create critical consumers and producers of the mass media from amongst the ordinary people, specially the youth of Sri Lanka;
to create an avenue for their voices to be heard in the mainstream media channels and on the Internet;
to be an alternative to the mainstream media of Sri Lanka by producing programmes and publications of high quality which do not compromise on technical and professional production standards.
Strategies used are :
-providing education and training programmes in all forms of media (mainly video and radio)
-producing radio and television programmes and printed publications,
-conducting drama and theatre production workshops and productions,
-carrying out exhibition and distribution of programmes, educational materials and other resources.
The TMU is one Resource Centre for the Communications and Media apostolate of the Society of Jesus, Sri Lanka Province, and its Coordinator, Mr. Robert Crusz, was a former Coordinator of JESCOM, the international Jesuit communications apostolate, in Sri Lanka.
(b) Some past works of the TMU include:
1) Animating and providing resources for young people who wish to pursue a career in the media. Providing script advice and doctoring, and production facilities for young filmmakers mainly to see the realization of their short filmmaking
[ e.g.: INDRAJITH MAHAWADUGE won the Audience Award at the Inigo Film Festival held at the World Youth Days in Cologne, Germany in 2005 for his short film, “Existence”
SHALINI THARMALINGAM received the Fidel Goetz Emerging Film Maker Award for her short film, “Regrets” at the Inigo Film Festival 2011, held in Madrid, Spain.
CHATHURIKA NIMALACHANDRA’S short film, “My Favourite”, was judged best short film among the internal entries for the ‘Short Stamp’ film festival conducted by the Department of Mass Communication, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka in 2008. She was also selected from hundreds of applicants from all over Asia to participate in the Asian Film Academy of Korea training course for 20 students in film directing, held in Pyongyang, South Korea for three weeks in October 2010]
2) Conducting Video and Radio production courses, and specialised Video Camera and Video Editing courses.
3) In 2004, producing the Sinhala radio version of Shri Charles’ de Silva’s nativity play, RAJA UPATHA with music composed and performed by Sri Lanka’s leading folk artiste Rohana Baddege.
4) Organised in collaboration with the Asian Film Centre, the SHORT NOTES film festival, the first ever Festival of Short Films by Young Sri Lankan Filmmakers held at the BMICH Cinema Hall on 19th June 2005 under the distinguished patronage of the acclaimed filmmakers, Dr. Lester James Peries and Mrs. Sumithra Pieris
5) Completed in August 2009, a pilot twelve week, Sinhala medium, Teacher Training Programme in Communication and Media Studies based on the new GCE (O/L) Examination Syllabus for this subject. The aim was to train the teachers to conduct these classes in their own schools for students who wish to offer this subject for their O/L examination. The course was conducted in collaboration with lecturers of the Department of Mass Communication, University of Kelaniya.
6) Completed a full length documentary on the problem of ground water pollution in the Ekala Industrial Estate Area of Ja-Ela in the Western Province.
7) Produced an audio-visual teaching and learning package for the GCE O/L Christianity syllabus coordinated by the Lanka Centre for Social Concern.
8) Coordinated and conducted the new Jesuit Juniorate scholastic programme for 2009/2010 in collaboration with the ELTU/Department of English, University of Kelaniya.
9) Completed in June 2010, a four week residential course for four Special Degree Communications Studies students from the Eastern University of Sri Lanka (Trincomalee Campus) in Advanced Video Production and Non-Linear Editing. Produced four short films of these students as part of their course work. One of the films, called “Regrets”, by SHALINI THARMALINGAM received the Fidel Goetz Emerging Film Maker Award at the Inigo Film Festival 2011, held in Madrid, Spain.
10) Provided production, technical, logistical and creative assistance in 2010, to Tom Rosenberg, a Fulbright Scholar in Sri Lanka, to produce his video documentary “Nanavira Thera” on the life and work of Ven. Nanavira, the British born Buddhist monk who committed suicide in his Sri Lankan forest hermitage in the 1960’s.
11) Trained three groups of five young women in 2011 from three provinces in Sri Lanka in basic video and radio techniques as part of the Canadian based International Development Research Centre’s project “State Reform From Below: Local and Community Initiatives for Peace Building, Development and Political Reforms in Sri Lanka” done in collaboration with the Social Scientists’ Association of Sri Lanka.
Produced and Directed a video-documentary for this project – “Re-Imagining Local Democracy” (2011).
12) Acted as the host institution in Sri Lanka for Fulbright Advanced Research and Lecturing Scholar, Rebecca Wexler for 3 months in 2012.
13) Produced and directed a 50 min.video documentary “Grateful Companions Committed in Hope” to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Sri Lanka Province of the Society of Jesus in 2012.
Robert Crusz (TMU Co-ordinator)
Robert Crusz is a Sri Lankan who lived in the U.K. for 21 years. He is a writer, and film and video maker, and was a founding member, in 1983, of the U.K. based Sankofa Film and Video Workshop, (part of the Black British film workshop movement) which produced critical documentaries for British television companies like Channel 4 and feature films based on issues related to the lives of Asian, African and Afro-Caribbean people living in Europe and North America. The workshop was actively involved in media education and training for Black British youth, sponsored by the British Film Institute and the U. K. Arts Council.
Crusz was on the editorial boards of SCREEN and FRAMEWORK, two leading film journals in the U.K. and was the British Council sponsored Visiting Filmmaker in Australia in 1989, conducting training seminars for members of the indigenous Aboriginal community in Sydney. He was also the founding editor of CINESITH, the English language film journal from Sri Lanka. Among his filmography as writer/director is a docu-drama INBETWEEN produced for Channel 4 TV in the U.K. which also toured the world as part of the 1992 biennial package of the Best of British Independent Film and Video under the auspices of the British Council and the Institute of Contemporary Arts (U.K.). His productions in Sri Lanka include
-THE CENSUS, a short film based on a short-story by the late Kerala writer Karoor Nilakantha Pillai,
-WOMEN BY THE SEA, a short documentary about Sri Lankan women’s experience of the 2004 tsunami for UNICEF and ICES (Sri Lanka),
-BEARING WITNESS – a seven hour long video-archive of interviews of Sri Lankan women from all its communities about their experiences of the nearly 30 year ethnic civil war, for the International Institute of Social History, the Netherlands.