The First Ceylon International Film Festival (CEYIFF) kicked off at the Lobero theater Friday night.  That’s the first in the world outside of Sri Lanka and it happens to be in our town!  CEYIFF is the brainchild of local sisters Aruni Boteju and Ruwani Horanage who wanted to “create a cultural bridge from one paradise in the Pacific Ocean to another paradise in the Indian Ocean”.

The evening began with formal opening ceremonies during which Aruni thanked local leaders for attending and making this truly an exchange between countries:  First District Santa Barbara County Supervisor Das Williams, Mayor Randy Rowse, and Santa Barbara City Councilor Oscar Gutierrez (who is also a member of the CEYIFF jury given his film background).

Sean Pratt, Managing Director of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF), and Ben Goedert, Development Director, also attended the festivities and Aruni noted the prominent and active role that SBIFF has had in supporting local and international cinema within the community and far beyond.

Erica Reyes, District Director with Congressman Salud Carbajal, represented him during the evening’s festivities issuing a Congressional Certificate commemorating CEYIFF’s launch in Santa Barbara and presenting it to Aruni during the opening ceremonies.

Dr. Lalith Chandradasa, the Sri Lankan Consul General (a representative of Sri Lanka in the United States) addressed the Santa Barbara crowd, thanking them for attending and speaking about the ability of cinema to unite people.

He also mentioned during his remarks that it was perhaps time for a change in the Sri Lankan government.  Sri Lanka has recently suffered from an economic default on its debt arising from long-standing political corruption tied to the ruling family that has dominated the Sri Lankan government for decades.  The remark was notable given that the Consul General’s wife is part of that family (and is likely to be newsworthy in that part of the world).

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