Filmmakers release amazing three-minute Sri Lanka tour

By Laura Ma, CNNPublished 23rd December 2014
They met a daring cliff jumper.
They followed the path of religious pilgrims.
They negotiated with a road-blocking elephant.
And then a team of Australia-based cinematophers on a two-week road trip through Sri Lanka produced a three-minute memoir of their trip that ranks as the most "I wanna go there!" videos we've seen in a while.
"We all have Sri Lankan backgrounds and as we were growing up, we heard many stories from our parents about their childhoods in Sri Lanka," says Rukshan Fernando, co-founder of Melbourne-based Ferndara Creative and Creative Motion Cinematography.
Together with Ferndara co-founder Chamik Bandara and assistant Niha Sathasivam, the team has traveled often to Sri Lanka to film destination weddings for private clients.
But they'd never ventured beyond the tourist areas or towns in which they were paid to film.
On their latest trip, however, the group decided to hop in a minivan and go on a "very spontaneous and completely unplanned trip."
"We decided that for this work trip, we would set aside some time for ourselves to experience what life in Sri Lanka is like," says Fernando.
They got that and more -- as the video above illustrates -- as Fernando explained to CNN.
Team of cinematographers. Left to right: Rukshan Fernando, Chamika Bandara, Niha Sathasivam.
CNN: What are your favorite scenes in the video?
Rukshan Fernando: The elephants on the road is an interesting scene [0:20].
Some of the wild elephants in Sri Lanka are accustomed to blocking the road until they're fed.
Feeding wild animals is not permitted, but many people will throw food for the elephants so they eat and move on.
Another scene is the man cliff-jumping [0:22, 1:58], which was breathtaking and frightening at the same time.
He jumped with such ease then climbed back up the cliff without any support and was ready to jump again.
CNN: What's the cliff jumper's story?
Fernando: The cliff-jumping scene was shot at Galle Fort near the Galle Lighthouse.
He introduced himself as Red -- short for Reddog, his family name.
According to Red, he makes a living out of it and has been doing the jumps for a very long time now.
He jumps off the cliff for the amusement of tourists, usually for a small fee, around 1,000 rupees ($7).
There's a rock that juts out so the jump has to be precise, adding to the suspense.
CNN: Who's the solo dancer at the beginning and end of the video?
Fernando: She's Miurangana Fernando, a 23-year-old who has been dancing for 10 years.
The Ferndara team travels frequently to Sri Lanka to film weddings.
Fernando's an accomplished dancer and dance instructor in the seaside town of Wennapuwa who has completed her arangetram (an important stage debut).
We featured her at the start and end, performing Tanze (Uda Rata Natum) Ves Tanz "Ves" dance, the classical Sri Lankan Kandyan dance from the hill city, Kandy.
CNN: What's the great looking festival that pops up?
Fernando: At almost the one-minute mark an elephant adorned in fancy garments is paraded through the street for Kataragama Peraphera.
This is one of the biggest celebrations in Sri Lanka and a pilgrimage for Sri Lankans.
Thousands of people show up, some walking for days to make it to Kataragama, which was a major capital of an ancient kingdom called Ruhuna.
We filmed on the final night, which included performances by up to 50 separate dance troupes, highlighting various dance traditions in Sri Lanka.
CNN: How about the tea plantations?
Fernando: The tea plantations are in Nuwara Eliya, a two- to thee-hour drive from Colombo.
The region is the premium tea plantation area due to its cold, foggy climate.
They actually belong to different companies that have been around since the British colonial period, with only little stumps and markers separating different plantations.
It has a very European and colonial feel, and used to be called Little England.
Tea plantations in Nuwara Eliya.
CNN: Any tips for photographing Sri Lanka?
Fernando: Smile.
If you smile at someone when filming them, this usually puts them at ease.
Sri Lankans are very welcoming and tolerant, usually they have no issue with being filmed or photographed.
It's also appreciated if you show them the photographs or clips.
This might lead to further opportunities to film more closely or do a re-take of something important you may have missed.
CNN: What were the challenges?
Fernando: The best way to get around is driving, but the roads aren't well developed in some areas.
There's lengthy travel time even for short distances.
Unexpected traffic also causes missed moments like sunsets or sunrises.
Getting permission at various venues can sometimes take a lot of effort and communication.
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