Sengadal, the Dead Sea

Sengadal, the Dead Sea

Sengadal, the Dead Sea is a feature fiction film which captures the fragments of simple lives beaten by three decade long ethnic war in Srilanka.It unfolds in a fisher village at Dhanushkodi,the southernmost tip of India where life and death co exist.

On the Indian mainland, across the waters, arrive the Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka, an unending stream of people dispossessed of their lands and Gods, to an uncertain future with ever receding hopes of return. Dhanushkodi, the Indo-Sri Lankan border town, is the crucible wherein History is brewing this concoction of defeated lives and exhausted dreams. Hope is a big word and resistance but a tired expression. Three decades of struggle for a nation is washed out, a race obliterated.

For, there is no one fighting their war back home now. Heroic images have turned to dust. The bunkers run with the wasted blood. Smoke rises from heaps of putrid flesh. Unwanted lives rot away in barbed wire human zoos.

The misery spills over to the Indian shore. Fishermen fishing in fear in ignorance of friendly and enemy waters get dumped as rebels, spies and smugglers and unceremoniously beaten to death or shot or maimed. Yet, each morning sees their boats launched once again to the sea as the sea is their motherland and the language of fish their mother tongue.

Manimekalai, the filmmaker, Munusamy, the fisherman, Rosemary, the social worker in Jesuit Christian Refugee Services, try hard to retain their sanity in this mad jumble. Their interactions with the dead or living refugees, their skirmishes with the Indian and Sri Lankan States, their personal lives overrun by external events - form the kernel of this narration. Soori, a half-wit Sri Lankan Tamil, who connects to the world through his radio, stands aloof in this bleak world of despair sending lightning jolts of truth into the dark recesses of History. No wonder, he vanishes into the blue and Manimekalai is forced by the State to return to the world of civil obedience. Munusamy is killed and Rosemary turns to her God, the same God who parted the Red Sea to save his flock in their flight from annihilation.

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Directed by:
Leena Manimekalai
C Jerrold, Shobasakthi, Leena Manimekalai
Additional Dialogue:
C Jerrold
M J Radhakrishnan
LV Ganesan
Sreekar Prasad
Live Sound:
Harikumar Madhavan Nair
Studio Sound:
Subhadeep Sengupta
Executive Producer:
Artist Credits:
Nimal, Munusamy, RoseMary, Leena Manimekalai, Shobasakthi
Produced by:
90 minutes

Sengadal the DeadSea had won the GFI Production grant for 2010.Sengadal was initially banned by the Regional Censor Board and after months of struggle, has recently won the legal battle and secured a clearance certificate for public exhibition.

  • Official Selection, International Competition, 32nd Durban International Film Festival, August 2011
  • Official Selection, First Film Competition, 35th World Montreal Film Fetsival, September 2011
  • Official Selection, International Competition, Mumbai Film Fest, MAMI, October 2011
  • NAWFF Award(Best Asian Woman Film award), Tokyo International Film Festival, November 2011
  • Indian Panorama, Indian International Film Festival, Goa, December 2011
  • World Cinema Official Selection, International Film Festival of Kerala, 2011
  • Chithrabarathi Competition, Bangalore International Film Festival, 2011
  • Official Korean Premeire, International Women Film Festival, South Korea, 2012
  • Official Taiwan Premeire, International Women Film Festival, Taipei, 2012
  • NAWFF Premieres at International Women Film Festivals at Israel and Beijing, 2012
  • Pecheurs De Monde International Film Festival, Lorient, France, 2013
  • Rare Picks at Hundred years of Indian Cinema Package, 2013 and more

With Sengadal, Leena Manimekalai pulls off quite the triple play. For one, she arrives with her feature length debut. Second, she succeeds at filling the dual role of director and actress in the picture. Third, and arguably the most interesting coup, is that she succeeds in creating a near-perfect blend of fiction and fact - Official Competition, World Montreal Film Festival, 2011

From Indian director Leena Manimekalai comes this engaging and haunting film "Sengadal the Dead Sea" that tells the stories of real victims on both sides of the conflict, highlighting the human rights violations which occurred and documenting the fishermen’s rage against the violent atrocities perpetrated by both the Sri Lankan and Indian governments. The resulting blend of fiction and documentary is a powerful protest against the injustices and ethnic cleansing which continues to take place around the world - World Premiere, Official Competition, Durban International Film Festival, 2011

Sengadal was highly commended as a bold and brave film that sensitively portrayed the plight of the fisher folk in Dhanushkodi, caught as they were in the interstices of a long and difficult ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka between the Sinhalese and Tamil people. With live footage and interviews, the film was appreciated as a stellar piece of work by a young and talented filmmaker - NAWFF Award(Best Asian Women Cinema) , Tokyo, 2011

Though fiction, the realistic style is alike a documentary film and the humanistic affection involved reminds us La Terra Trem Directed by Luchino VISCONTI, portraying a story in a fishing village in Sicily - Women Make Waves, Taiwan International Women Festival 2012

Through the gaze of the documentarist, who is the director’s own persona, the director questions the boundaries of the reality and representation, fiction and nonfiction in the unraveling of the shocking present. She also inquires about the way in which the camera should consider this violent reality- New Currents, Seoul International Film Festival 2012

The Dead Sea that gives voice to the most marginalized of the marginalized lot, is an extremely important film - IANS, 2011

Manimekalai has a clear purpose and captures the contours of the landscape, and the bleakness of its people, prcisely. For all its sombre quality, the film breaks into lyrical visuals - Mint, Wall Street Journal, 2011

The images, the film offers you are very moving and will never leave you - The Mercury, Durban, 2011