It is with great sadness that we report the sudden death of radical filmmaker Prasanna Ratnayake.
Prasanna, from Sri Lanka, had worked in the UK since 2006 (as and when the Home Office’s rigid rules allowed), until he was finally able to settle here in 2014 with his wife Margaret Henry. Prasanna had been the Institute of Race Relations’ unofficial media man.
Amongst the projects he did for the IRR was re-mastering our four films, ‘Struggles for Black Community’ (directed by Colin Prescod and produced by Margaret Henry), so they could be available on DVD. He also produced a DVD, ’Catching history on the wing’, of conversations with IRR’s Director Emeritus A. Sivanandan.
Prasanna, a Sinhalese, shared with Siva, a Tamil, a deep hatred of communalism and state violence in their native Sri Lanka and they were firm friends. His story in Groundviews revealed how the 10-year-old boy had been deeply affected by the anti-Tamil riots of 1983. What he witnessed then set the stars by which he would be guided for life: his love of filmmaking and of social justice. In 2009, he and his wife set up Postcolonial Films Ltd. Prasanna’s remarkable technical and creative skills led to a number of documentaries and videos for progressive NGOs including Amnesty International and Save the Children, looking at issues such as the death penalty, human and civil rights and the difficulties of young people affected by war and violent conflict in twenty-three countries. At his death he was working on a film about the two Sudans.
Quiet, thoughtful, humble, never putting himself forward, Prasanna had learnt the hard way to be circumspect in the country with the second highest number of assassinations and disappearances in the world.
Having chosen to live in the UK, it is so sad that his life and work here was to be cruelly cut short.