In the late 1970s my anthropologist mother, Sharon Bell, lived for two years in Sri Lanka researching village life. Together with my cinematographer father, Geoff Burton, they made a series of films documenting this experience. Four women, a community of fishermen, and a dance instructor became their subjects and friends. In 'the village' my mother was affectionately known as sudu-nona (the white lady), and in response to her persistent curiosity, villagers would remark that she must have been born Sri Lankan in a previous life.
Since then Sri Lanka has been wracked by a long running civil war, a devastating tsunami and a national economy incapable of supporting the population. The three documentary films made by my parents, The Sri Lanka Series (1980), captured the rituals and challenges of village life prior to such momentous social changes. A way of life that in our global economy continues to rapidly fade into mythology and reminiscence.
I was born in Australia a few years after the films were completed and am now the same age as my mother when she conducted her fieldwork. Like her, I am in the pursuit of knowledge through academia. Like my father, I am engaged in the art of visual storytelling. Taking cue from my provenance, I have the privilege to re-visit the villages where my mother lived, and focus my lens on the next generation of cultivators, fishermen, dancers, and family friends. My Mother's Village explores how they, like me, are navigating heredity and inheritance.
- Aaron Burton
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