'Funny Boy': Release date, plot, cast, trailer and all you need to know about Canada's 2021 Oscar entry
Set in Sri Lanka during the 1970s and 1980s, the film explores the sexual awakening of its young protagonist Arjun 'Arjie' Chelvaratnam as civil war between the Sinhalese and Tamils tear apart the country
Deepa Mehta’s 'Funny Boy', an adaptation of Shyam Selvadurai’s 1994 novel of the same name, has been announced as Canada’s official selection for Best International Feature Film for the 2021 Academy Awards. "It's about Sri Lankans. It's about the civil war. It's about gays coming of age," Mehta said of the film. The film, which is mostly in Tamil with some English, was acquired by Ava DuVernay's distribution company Array.
The film will be released on Netflix on December 10.
Set in Sri Lanka during the 1970s and 1980s, the film explores the sexual awakening of its young protagonist Arjun "Arjie" Chelvaratnam. The film tracks his story from the time he is a young boy, deemed "funny" by his disapproving family, to a teenager, who falls in love with a male classmate. As political tensions escalate in the country between the minority Tamils and the majority Sinhalese, the young boy comes of age surrounded by a family and larger society that is not open to identities outside of dominant norms.
Arush Nand portrays the young Arjie at the start of the film, who is called "funny" because of his girlish mannerisms. Nand has been acting in the Hindi film industry, popularly known as Bollywood. He has starred in films like 'Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran' and 'Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior'.
Brandon Ingram plays the teen Arjie, who falls in love with a male classmate called Shehan. Ingram was a theatre actor in Sri Lanka who had recently come out as gay — something that impressed Deepa Mehta, who found it brave as Sri Lanka currently criminalizes same-sex conduct.
The cast also includes Nimmi Harasgama, Ali Kazmi, Agam Darshi, Seema Biswas, Rehan Mudannayake, and Shivantha Wijesinha.
The film is based on Sri Lankan-born Canadian Shyam Selvadurai's 1994 novel 'Funny Boy', which won the Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Fiction. He published the young adult novel, 'Swimming in the Monsoon Sea', in 2005, which won the Lambda Literary Award in the Children's and Youth Literature category in 2006. In 2013, he released a fourth novel, 'The Hungry Ghosts'.
The director of the film is Deepa Mehta, who also co-wrote the film's script with Selvadurai. 'Funny Boy' will be Mehta's third Oscar nomination for the best International film category. Her previous film 'Earth' was submitted by India as its official entry for the 'Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film'. After she became a Canadian citizen, her film 'Water' became Canada's official entry in the same category. In May 2012, Mehta received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canada's highest honor in the performing arts.
The trailer show a young Arjie who experiments with makeup and pretends to be a bride while playing dress-up. While most of the extended family is aghast about his "girlish tendencies", he is encouraged by his mother to be true to himself. He is also bullied by children of his age for being a "pansy". We then shift to Arjie as a teenager who is now in an elite school, where he falls in love with a classmate. At the same time, the Tamil-Sinhalese conflict becomes impossible to ignore as violent programs are carried out. Arjie, who is Tamil, faces hostility at school while his aunt has to decide if she can be with a Sinhalese boy.
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'Earth', 'Water', 'Life of Pi', 'Slumdog Millionaire', 'The Namesake' and 'Monsoon Wedding'.