Uberto Pasolini - Director, Co-writer, Producer

“The impulse to make "Machan" stems from the discovery of an absurd true event that inspired me to confront the immigration policies of the West in a non-didactic, humorous way.

The gradual acceptance in the West of the need to offer asylum to "refugees" (badly administered as it often is), has been accompanied by an increased demonisation of those wishing to enter the West for the purpose of improving their lives; these, now referred to as "bogus refugees" or "illegal immigrants", are the target on one hand of short-sighted immigration policies and on the other of the greed of international human traffickers.

The immigration policies of the West, often based on point systems according to the "desirability" and "usefulness" of applicants, are solely geared to the advantage of the recipient country, while running directly counter to the needs of the countries where much of the would be immigrants come from.

These policies have contributed to create a desperate brain-drain in parts of the world that most require the skills exported, whether engineering or medical, while compensating for decades of under-funding by Western countries in their training and education sectors.

The policies further ignore the value to Western economies of immigrant labour and the efficiency of wealth transfer via direct remittances from foreign workers as compared to government-administered international aid.

The film, based on real events that allows us to approach the subject in a humourous way, wants to remind the audiences of the desperate situation of many of the "illegals" we see on our streets, of the fact that what drives them to come to our shores is not the desire to scrounge on our generosity but to provide for those they were forced to leave behind.”

Prasanna Vithanage - Producer

When my dear friend and sometime collaborator Priyath Liyanage called me from London and told me that the producer of The Full Monty wanted to make a film set in Sri Lanka, my first reaction was ‘what does he know about Sri Lanka to make a film centered here?’ Then Priyath explained. He told me the basic plot outline of the movie: a set of desperate working class lads fake a handball team just to go to the west.

He also told me it was based on a famous true incident – which I must confess I knew nothing about. All the pseudo-realistic films about the downtrodden masses made by foreign directors in places they failed to understand came to my mind. Still, I was eager to meet with Uberto Pasolini, if only for the reason that he was the nephew of the legendary Luchino Visconti, a director I greatly admire.

When I met Uberto, the first thing that struck me was that he was an avid listener keen to learn and absorb as much as he could about this unknown land. So we walked the streets of Slave Island in downtown Colombo, where we ate kottu roti from a street vendor and drank beer in a seedy little drinking house. He explained to me that he wanted to make the film in the language of its characters. I told him he was going to miss a big market – because that would make this a foreign film, and difficult to market to a mass audience in the west. But he said he wanted to be truthful to the reality of his characters, wanting to follow the approach of the great Italian neorealists in telling his story. Being a director myself, my previous film being inspired by the neorealist movement, this struck a deep chord in me. Uberto also told me he was thinking of working with playwright Ruwanthie de Chickera, whose theatre pieces I have watched, enjoyed and admired.

About a year after that, Uberto met me again, this time with Ruwanthie. They had sent a completed second draft of the script to me, and asked me what I thought. I told them the truth. That I thought the light touch they had used in treating their subject felt like a breath of fresh air. But I never expected him to ask me to produce. Though I have produced two times previously, both were for movies I directed. I have never worked as a producer of outside material.

Though I thought I knew what it would be like to produce such a project, I was not prepared for a venture of this size. At the time I was planning to direct a movie with a European producer, for which I had completed the script’s first draft. But Uberto managed to convince me that I should work with him first. So I agreed to produce, although I must admit I was a very reluctant producer!

And so we began, forming a company, and working as an independent production. Uberto looked at thousands of faces, met hundreds of actors, rehearsed a multitude of times before settling on his final cast. Not being a native speaker of the language, the challenge he faced was big. But he made it through. I think the best relationship throughout the production was the one Uberto had with his actors, and that shows on screen.

We sailed on, and as in all movies, we had our share of difficulties and differences. We also shot for two weeks in Germany, where I came to the realization that I could have been a better producer had I been exposed to the efficiency of the Germans beforehand. And true to Uberto’s vision of depicting the desperation of the Sri Lankan working class and their drive to seek a better life in the west, one cast member vanished from his dressing room. He was, however, gracious enough to finish shooting before crossing over.

I saw the first cut of the movie on DVD four months after we wrapped. Tears came to my eyes, as I fell for those characters and their desperate, misplaced desire to seek a fortune abroad. Uberto was forever looking to empathize with his characters, throughout the writing, shooting and editing processes. And I am proud to be associated with a film that has achieved that one very valuable thing: truth.”

Ruwanthie de Chickera - Co-writer

“My involvement in this film was almost jeopardised by a pirated DVD film.

Two years ago, I got a call from an Uberto Pasolini, who asked me if I would be interested in working with him on his new film. I had never written a film script before, so I was cautious. He introduced himself as the producer of ‘The Full Monty’ and I was even more cautious. ‘The Full Monty’ was one of my favourite films. Could this really be the producer calling me?

My inherent skepticism led me to my DVD collection. I picked up my Rs. 150/- pirated copy of ‘The Full Monty’ and looked for Uberto’s name on its very authentic looking cover. It was not there, and, in fact, under Producer, was someone else’s name (I later found out he was the lead actor). I dismissed the call from Uberto as a (slightly bizarre) practical joke. That would have been the end of that, if I hadn’t loved The Full Monty enough to want to watch the movie again. As the credits of the film appeared, Uberto’s name appeared as producer

. I still have that pirated DVD. I’ll gift it to Uberto one day.

Scripting ‘Machan’ was challenging for me for two reasons, firstly, it was a new form – I had previously written only plays. As far as I knew, my imagination fed on words, not images. I now had to learn to think visually – still the voices in my head. The second challenge, was, of course, working with someone else on a script. I had never done this before either. I knew it could all go terribly wrong.

Uberto and I worked well together and we worked long hours together. Because we met only a few times over the writing process, when we did, we would spend literally 12 – 15 hours together in a small office or restaurant, talking about the script – and nothing else. I was not used to this amount of continuous talking with one person about one thing, day after day. But Uberto was relentless, and I was determined to keep up.

One of the greatest challenges we faced was balancing the truth of the script so it appealed to both international and local audiences. What was cliché to one group was insight to the other, what was interesting to one was unacceptable to the other. This led to many fierce and lengthy arguments, some which were resolved only half way into shooting.

Of course I believed in the political message Uberto wanted to share through the film. Freedom of travel is not a basic human right today. While some groups of people have access to all parts of the globe; politics of colour and economy and race dictate that other, large groups of people will never be allowed to travel outside their place of birth.

When these people travel, they have to do so illegally.

Uberto and I, through this film, tried to provide insight into these people who are lumped together under this harsh prejudice of ‘illegal immigrant’. Our 23 young men leave their countries for a variety of reasons. We have people who leave because they believe the West is better, but we also have people who leave reluctantly, because they need to find more money, just to survive.

We have people who go because they are young curious about the world and we have people who go because they are old and have never seen a country other than their own; we have people who don’t want to go, we have people who want to come back before they even leave, we have people who never wanted to leave, but then do.

Of course, we set out to write a film that made its point through humour. And the essence of this humour lies at the very heart of the film – in the true incident of the fake handball team.

I love the incident the film is based on. The cheekiness of those 23 guys, who not only had the brazenness to pose as a bogus handball team to apply for their visas, but who actually had a nerve – indeed, the idiocy - to stay on in the tournament and play three games, instead of disappearing immediately their feet touched German soil.

This craziness of spirit makes me laugh, even today.

For me, the simple nature of their small rebellion, its daftness in the face of sophisticated immigration laws, is just the kind of spirit tha we need to challenge the faceless, laughter-less powers in the world.

Their victory is not just a victory of illegal immigrants over immigration laws, it’s the victory of human curiosity and imagination and cheekiness over soulless policies and sterile rules.”