The exclusive world broadcast premiere of Deepa Mehta's Funny Boy is coming to CBC on December 4th

The Ava DuVernay-approved adaptation of the award-winning book sheds light on growing up gay in Sri Lanka.

The adaptation of the award-winning book sheds light on growing up gay in Sri Lanka

Deepa Mehta on her new film Funny Boy, 'a quintessentially Canadian story'

CBC Arts

1 month agoVideo
Director Deepa Mehta sits down with Johanna Schneller at the St. John's International Women's Film Festival to talk about her powerful coming-of-age film Funny Boy. 1:47

For the many of us disappointed that most of 2020's new movies have been pushed to next year and beyond, here comes some very good news: one of Canada's filmmaking greats is releasing a new feature in December. Academy Award-nominee Deepa Metha's Funny Boy will exclusively air on CBC TV and stream (for free!) on CBC Gem on Friday, December 4th at 8pm (8:30 NT). The screening is the result of a partnership between CBC and Telefilm Canada, bringing to life the award-winning novel by Shyam Selvadurai about growing up gay in Sri Lanka during the deadly Tamil-Sinhalese conflict.

"[Funny Boy] is about the oppression of minorities," Mehta says in the above video, a virtual interview with Johanna Schneller as part of the St. John's International Women's Film Festival. "For me, Funny Boy is actually not a very funny film."

Mehta calls Funny Boy "a quintessentially Canadian story."

"[It] could have only be written by a Sri Lankan who had emigrated to Canada," she says. "The objectivity that Canada provides, through which we can look at our respective homelands, is I think this country's greatest gift. It's what I hope will give us a global understanding of the nature of the 'other.'"

Brandon Ingram (left) plays Arjie and Rehan Mudannayake plays Shehan in Deepa Mehta's Funny Boy. (CBC Films)

Shot on location and set in Sri Lanka in the 1970s and 80s, the film explores the awakening of sexual identity by a boy named Arjie. As political tensions escalate to a boiling point between the minority Tamils and the majority Sinhalese, the boy comes of age in a society and family that doesn't embrace differences outside of societal norms. The film is co-written by Mehta and Selvadurai; produced by David Hamilton and Hussain Amarshi; and stars Brandon Ingram in his feature film debut alongside Nimmi Harasgama, Ali Kazmi, Agam Darshi and Arush Nand as "young Arjie." Notably, Ava DuVernay's ARRAY Releasing recently acquired the film's rights for the United States. 

Selavdurai's book was the winner of the WH Smith Books/Books in Canada First Novel Award (1995) and the Lambda Award for Best Gay Men's Fiction (1997). It was also shortlisted for the Giller Prize (1994) and named an American Library Association Notable Book (1996). Mehta herself is no stranger to awards, with her 2005 film Water nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Funny Boy is already seen as a very strong contender for Canada's submission in that category (now named Best International Film) this year. 

Funny Boy will be available to stream on-demand in Canada on CBC Gem following its CBC TV broadcast on December 4. The film will premiere on Netflix outside of Canada on Thursday, December 10. Funny Boy was made possible with the support of CBC Films, Telefilm Canada and Ontario Creates.

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