CM . . . . Volume XV Number 13. . . .February 20, 2009.
Blood & Water.
Rohan Fernando (Writer & Director). Kent Martin (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2007.
78 min., DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: 153C 9106 412.
Grades 10 & up / Ages 15 & up.
Review by Linda Wood.
In five minutes, I lost everything.
- Dr. Anton Ambrose
When a fifty foot tidal wave, moving five hundred miles per hour, hit the Sri Lankan coast, there was nowhere to run...or hide. In December, 2004, the tsunami divided one family forever. It took Dr. Anton Ambrose's wife, Beulah and daughter, Orlantha, in its wake.
When Ambrose, a successful obstetrician-gynecologist from Los Angeles, CA, decided to return to the scene of the tragedy one year later, he asked his nephew, film maker Rohan Fernando, to accompany him.
"Orlantha used music as a tool for communication."
Ambrose decided to arrange the "Strings by the Sea" benefit concert as a memorial to Orlantha, a teacher who ran a non-profit group bringing violin lessons to underprivileged children in Sri Lanka's public school system. The goal of the concert was to raise funds in her honour to help build a concert centre at St. Joseph College, Ambrose's old Alma Mata.
The concert was all about strings; string instruments, tying a string around a finger for remembrance, rubber bands for resiliency to bounce back from tragedy and ribbons signifying hope.
Boasting foreign influences of Portugese, Dutch and English, Sri Lanka also incorporates some of the world's great religions, including Christianity, Buddhism and Islam. These influences are heavily reflected in its architecture. While Sri Lanka is culturally rich in heritage, it continues to be a land of contradictions.
There is a wide schism between the poor who live in slums while the rich send their children away to posh boarding schools. Ambrose originally came from the Slave Island neighbourhood, one of the poorest in Singapore.
"There's a moment in your life when you stop teaching your children...
and they start teaching you."- Ambrose
In the past, there was a wide cultural division between the Sinhalese and Tamil peoples. The animosity between these two ethnic groups ran so deep that it caused a bloody civil war lasting 20 years. Young adults like Orlantha are now changing that. She was a Tamil Christian while her best friend, Europa, is a Sinhalese Buddhist.
Dr. Ambrose visited locations, such as Tisamarra Hospital where he had previously identified his wife and daughter's remains, and Yala National Forest, the tsunami's first point of contact, where he was reunited with other survivors. By film's end, Ambrose had both unlocked his complex relationship with his daughter and begun to come to terms with her loss.
Linda Wood is a journalist and tutor in Saskatoon, SK.
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