“Emotional … eye opening, the movie 1999 is … provocative, … tale of friendship, … betrayal and courage…”

Short Synopsis

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A fatal gang shooting on a quiet suburban street sets into motion a chain of events that changes the lives of three young men forever. Anpu is an intelligent but isolated underachiever whose strained relationship with his strict disciplinarian father forces him to seek out respect and a sense of belonging in all the wrong places. Kumar is a charismatic gang leader desperate to break free from the cycle of violence and code of honour that hold his crew together for the sake of his brash, younger brother. Far removed from this world is the ambitious university student Ahilan who, having overcome enormous hardship, is on the cusp of realizing his biggest dreams. Bearing the unseen scars of Sri Lanka’s devastating civil war, their worlds collide one fateful Saturday that begins like any other day.

Long Synopsis

Inspired by real-life events, independent Canadian filmmaker Lenin M. Sivam‘s captivating debut feature film is a sinuously provocative, edge-of-your seat story of friendship, betrayal and courage. A fatal gang shooting on a quiet suburban Toronto street sets into motion a chain of events over the course of a single day in 1999 that changes the lives of three young men forever.

Anpu is an intelligent but isolated underachiever whose strained relationship with his strict disciplinarian father forces him to seek out respect and a sense of belonging in all the wrong places. Far removed from this world is the ambitious university student Ahilan who, having overcome enormous hardship, is on the cusp of realizing his biggest dreams. Former classmates and friends, Anpu and Ahilan have now grown apart as they vie for the affection of the same woman. Kumar is a charismatic gang leader desperate to break free from the cycle of violence and code of honour that hold his crew together for the sake of his brash, younger brother. Bearing the unseen scars of Sri Lanka’s devastating civil war, their worlds collide one fateful Saturday that begins like any other day.

Based on extensive research including interviews with youth workers and reformed gang members, 1999 offers a rare insider’s perspective on the wave of gang violence that shook the Tamil community in Toronto in the 1990s. A sensitive yet honest portrayal, the movie delves into the myriad of challenges facing immigrant Tamil youth as they negotiate a new hyphenated reality in Canada while fighting the bitter memories of Sri Lanka’s brutal war from which many of them escaped. Featuring a completely volunteer ensemble of Toronto-based cast and crew and produced on a shoe-string budget, 1999 marks the arrival of ‘a fresh voice in Canadian filmmaking’ and introduces a new dimension to the multicultural narrative of Canada.

Story Background

Following the anti-Tamil riots of July, 1983 in Sri Lanka and the subsequent escalation of the civil war, thousands of ethnic minority Tamils fled the country to seek refuge around the world. A vast majority of them arrived in Canada, and in particular Toronto, throughout the late 1980s and 1990s. It is estimated that there are, at present, at least 300,000 Tamils in Canada making it home to the largest Tamil diaspora community in the world.

These Tamil immigrants faced numerous challenges in their newly adopted country as they tried to adjust to a new way of life while trying to put the bitter memories of the war behind them. They faced culture shock and a language barrier. The experiences of war and the memories of loved ones they left behind continued to haunt them. The youth, mostly young men, were impacted the most as they were torn between two different cultures. Some of them did not have their families in Canada and often lived with their relatives or friends. Inevitably, the loneliness and the absence of a strong familial support system drove many of these young men to gangs which offered them protection and a sense of purpose and belonging. Initially started as loosely organized cliques that spent time together, these gangs grew increasingly violent throughout the 1990s and soon became a thorny issue for law enforcement officials and the majority, law-abiding Tamil community. Breaking free from this gang culture proved to be difficult for many of these young men.

Tragically, some of them paid for it with their lives.

Recognition

Official Selection , ReelWorld Film Festival in April, 2010

Best Film Award (Midnight Sun) , Oslo Tamil Film Festival in February, 2010

Top 10 Canadian Films , Vancouver International Film Festival in September, 2009

 

 

 

1999 Movie

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