The Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation For Documentary Photography & Film
2013 Film Laureate – Kannan Arunasalam
Project: The Story of One
Region/Impact: Government Repression and Ethnic Conflict, Batticaloa, Sri Lanka
As the war raged, 8,000 cases of disappearances were recorded in Batticaloa, in eastern Sri Lanka, during the 1990s. Bodies were never found and no investigations conducted. But the people who knew the missing can still tell their stories. This is The Story of One.
This period in Batticaloa was marked by violence and disappearances at the hands of the security forces as well as recruitment by the Tamil Tigers (LTTE). Young men were most at risk. To further heighten communal tensions, there were Tamil Tiger attacks on mosques and retaliation by Muslim gangs on Tamils. At the height of the troubles, a mother asked a Jesuit priest to take her son to safety thinking no harm could come to him with an American priest. She was wrong and they never made it home.
The film looks back at the lives of Father Hebert and the boy, Bertram Francis, and through the recollections of the people who knew them, attempts to trace what likely happened to them.
After 22 years, Bertram’s parents are just coming to terms with their loss. Meanwhile, Father Hebert’s legacy continues with the “Hebert Cup”, a basketball tournament played in his honor every year in Batticaloa.
Like most of the 8,000 cases of disappearances, no investigation has been conducted into the disappearance of Father Hebert or the boy. Their bodies have never been found. Father Harry Miller – who came over with from Louisiana with Father Hebert in the 1940s – has a picture of what likely happened to his friend. Observing the lives of the people closest to Father Hebert and Bertram, and the communities around them, the film explores how the parents struggle to get on with their lives not knowing what happened to their son.
The film was shot entirely in Batticaloa, in Eastern Sri Lanka, on a Canon 5D Mk II with various lenses in HD 1080p format.