COLOMBO (AFP) – Sri Lanka has halted a French cultural festival after it screened an internationally-acclaimed local film that the military considered insulting, authorities said Monday.
The French Film Festival in Colombo was abruptly stopped by the management of the state-owned venue after the movie -- set during Sri Lanka's ethnic war -- was screened, the French embassy and the government said.
A defence ministry official told reporters the film had been banned in Sri Lanka.
"It's an illegal film which insults the security forces and the government of Sri Lanka,"said the official, Lakshman Hulugalle, adding that producers did not have permission to use military uniforms.
The venue management told the embassy it suspended the festival marking Bastille Day celebrations, on "account of the contents of and the sentiments contained" in the Sinhala-language film "Flying Fish".
However, the embassy said it had been given clearance by the Public Performance Board, Sri Lanka's official movie and drama censor, to screen the film last Thursday to an invited audience.
State media slammed the festival organisers after the movie was screened, saying "Flying Fish" was critical of Sri Lanka's troops. The movie is set against the backdrop of the Tamil separatist war in the east of the island.
The government did not say what specific scenes were unacceptable. The festival was scheduled to end last Sunday but was terminated Saturday morning.
The French embassy said it had selected the 2011 movie with the support of Sri Lanka's culture ministry due to its international recognition in festivals in Asia and in France.
Sri Lanka is highly sensitive to criticism of its troops, who are facing international censure for alleged war crimes in the final stages of crushing Tamil separatists in 2009.
Sri Lanka has banned several local productions, saying they were undermining military morale. The government has rejected allegations that its troops killed 40,000 civilians in the closing stages of the war.