My Daughter the Terrorist: Controversial Docu about Sri Lanka Female Suicide Bombers

June 23, 2008–The Moscow Film Festival has refused to cancel the screening of a documentary about female suicide bombers. Norwegian director Beate Arnestad’s film about Tamil Tiger suicide bombers, “My Daughter the Terrorist” was due to screen Monday evening in the festival’s Free Thought documentary sidebar. Representtaives of the Sri Lankan embassy in Moscow accused the film of glorifying suicide attacks.

“The documentary is based on a group called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which is a banned terrorist organization in America, Great Britain and other countries,” a Sri Lankan embassy official in Moscow said. “The documentary was made in Sri Lanka without the approval or consent of the government and glorifies suicide attacks.”

The official added: “The film highlights suicide bombers at a time when the whole world is going the other way; it shows an attack on the president of Sri Lanka in which many innocent civilians died.” Following a complaint from the Sri Lankans, the Russian foreign ministry wrote to the festival’s organizers requesting that the film be pulled because it publicized terrorism.

But festival head Nikita Mikhalkov and Georgi Molotsov, documentary film programmer, told the foreign ministry that they had the right to show the 60-minute docu and that the key concept of the Free Thought sidebar is that it’s independent of politics.

Arnestad, who is working on a film about the work of the Intl. Criminal Tribunal in Rwanda, said the film’s producer, Morten Daae, had received death threats. In April, the Sri Lanka government put heavy pressure on the Full Frame doc film festival in Durham, N.C., to pull “My Daughter the Terrorist.”

“The screening went ahead, but I was heckled by Sri Lankans in the audience at the question-and-answer session afterwards,” said Arnestad, who was in Moscow for the screening. “I am amazed the Sri Lankans are putting so much energy into attacking a personal film that seeks to find out what motivates young women to become suicide bombers.”

Arnestad, who spent 18 months in negotiations with the Tamil Tigers to gain guarantees that she could film without interference and then a further two years secretly filming in Sri Lanka, said the latest incident had shaken her. “I do feel intimidated; the Sri Lankans, who have labeled me as part of a terrorist network, do seem to be following me or paying attention to where the film is screening,” she said.