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The Song of Ceylon
Description: The Song of Ceylon is a 1934 British documentary film directed by Basil Wright and produced by John Grierson for the Ceylon Tea Propaganda Board. Documentary chronicling the cultural life and religious customs of the Sinhalese and the effects of advanced industrialism on such customs. The first part of the film depicts the religious life of the Sinhalese, interlinking the Buddhist rituals with the natural beauty of Ceylon. Opening with a series of pans over palm leaves, we then gradually see people journey to Adam's Peak, a center of Buddhist pilgrimage for over two hundred years. This is continually inter-cut with images of surrounding natural beauty and a series of pans of a Buddhist statue. Part two focuses on the working life of the Sinhalese, again continually stressing their intimate connection to the surrounding environment. We see people engaging in pottery, woodcarving and the building of houses, whilst children play. The third part of the film introduces the arrival of modern communications systems into the fabric of this 'natural' lifestyle, heralded by experimental sounds and shots of industrial working practices. Finally, in the last part of the film, we return to the religious life of the Sinhalese, where people dress extravagantly to perform a ritual dance. The film ends as it began, panning over palm trees.
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Clip #: TFA-338A
Length: 39:41
Year: 1934
Color: B/W
Sound: Sound
Library: TFA Network
Decade: 1930s
Region: Asia
Country: Ceylon
Original: 16mm
Keywords:
.1 Part 1 - the Buddha. Scenes of dark jungle with glimpses of animals, ruined temples and tropical vegetation (180), devil dancers perform (270), commentary explains that then came Buddha. Pilgrims traversing the slopes of Adam's Peak from where it is believed that Buddha departed from Earth. The pilgrims reach the summit and sit down to rest, celebrating with chants and recitations in Buddha's honour (575), carving and statues of Buddha (646), the pilgrims greet the first light and watch the shadow of the Peak as it forms (732), the pilgrims go in procession round the shrine chanting (826), sacred bells ring (852), shots of statues of Buddha (866), shots of lakes and birds in flight (939). Part 2 - the Virgin Island. Villagers draw water from a well, women fill their water pots from the river (1052), elephant with her young standing in the river (1058), a priest, debarred from doing any manner of work, begs for food from a householder (1131), boy mounting and riding an elephant (1163), fishermen set out to sea in their outrigger canoes (1210), other fishermen cast their nets inshore (1312), washerwomen at work (1345), pottery making (1392), tree sawing (1420), latheworking (1454), man aided by his son builds a wattle-and-daub house (1520), fishing nets laid out on the beach (1554), women harvesting rice, rice beaten (1707), village children attend a dancing class (1930), villagers gossip and laugh (2032). r.2 Part 3 - the Voices of Commerce. View from a moving train of the countryside, railway track (56), elephants used for clearing trees for new roadways, elephants carrying granite stones (138), native boy prays in front of a cocoanut tree and climbs it (193), ship at sea (222), the native throws cocoanuts down from the tree, the cocoanuts are loaded onto a bullock cart, the nuts are taken and split open (327), wireless mast (342), details of steamers due for arrival posted up in shipping office (374), tea picking in a field (448), factory machines working (507), ships and tugs (513), tea crates loaded onto ships, liner pulls out of harbour (540), streets of Colombo, carts and lorries, people carrying goods, modern buildings (597). Part 4 - the Apparel of a God (618). Elephant riders return to the village (659), father chasing his child (679), fishing canoes return to the shore (709), tea plantation workers file back home (749), a native approaches some huge statues of Buddha and makes an offering of flowers to Buddha (1005), shots of the Buddha and other statues (1047), men and women walking along path to the ceremonial dancing floor (1060), a drummer begins beating his drum with his hands and dancing, dancers perform accompanied by the drumming and singing, the dancing becomes more frenzied (1377), shots of the dancers and statue of Buddha interposed (1433), final shots of tropical foliage (1475). The End (3507).

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