Lester James Peries: Pioneer of a Sri Lankan cinema tradition

Lester James Peries (April 1919 – 29 April 2018) was a Sri Lankan film director, screenwriter, and film producer. A filmmaker since 1949, Peries was involved in over 28 films, including shorts and documentaries.

In 1956, Peries made his entry into national cinema with the globally acclaimed “Rekava”, which was a story based on village life. It was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival.

With this film he revolutionised Ceylonese cinema, giving it a unique identity. It was the first Ceylonese movie to be shot outdoors.

Afterward he made many award-winning films such as “Gamperaliya” in 1964 based on Martin Wickramasinghe’s famous novel; “Delowak Athara” in 1966; “Golu Hadawatha” in 1968 based on the novel by Karunasena Jayalath; “Nidhanaya” in 1970; “Yuganthaya” in 1983 and many more.

He has directed over 20 feature films. He received critical acclaim for directing Rekava, Gamperaliya, Nidhanaya, Golu Hadawatha, Kaliyugaya, Awaragira and Yuganthaya.

His movie Wekande Walauwa, starring Ravindra Randeniya and Malini Fonseka, was Sri Lanka’s first ever submission for the Academy Awards.

Peries’ films often deal with Sri Lankan family life in rural settings and conflicted characters. He helped create an authentic expression of Sinhala Cinema.