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The term “independent film” conjures an ineffable warmth in the bones, much like “organic,” “homemade,” and “locally owned”semantics that serve local independent filmmaker Sujewa Ekanayake well. He says Next Wave films has been “eagerly awaiting” the release of his new film, Wild Diner. Same goes for Miramax and October Films. “Independent distribution would be ideal,” he says. “I want this film to be available worldwideon cable, at film festivals, on Channel 4 [U.K.], and Japanese television.”
In the meantime, he seems content screening the picture himself. Ekanayake has rented out a theater in the Cineplex Odeon Foundry in Georgetown and plans to take it to eight other cities across the U.S., one at a time. He hopes to recoup the $17,000 the film cost to make.
Last Friday night, a small crowd filed into the Foundry to watch Wild Diner, the fruit of Ekanayake’s five-year journey of the mind. He based the film on the many long evenings he’s spent at Silver Spring’s Tastee Diner. Those viewers who didn’t file out during the movie were treated to an hour-and-a-half of inside jokes, uninspired dialogue, and one excruciating sex scene.
In Wild Diner, various groups of friends laze about, tossing zingers into the air and passing around idle cultural reflections. Inevitably, someone suggests this unique situation will resonate with a larger group of people in the form of a feature-length film. Sounds like a passing flash of subgeniusexcept Ekanayake went the extra step and made the film.
The story takes place inside the diner, but because of production constraints, it was filmed in the basement of Ekanayake’s home. A random series of hanging sheetssome striped, some pinkrepresent walls; a secondhand couch serves as a booth.
Ekanayake stars as Greg Sole, a struggling filmmaker trying to write a script aboutwhat else?a diner. Over the course of the film, and through miscellaneous encounters with wacky characters, Sole, says the film’s promotional material, finds “answers to most of the problems in his life.”
Between acts, the film uses random footage from the area, which streams by to the soundtrack of local bands.
“Did you hear your song?” Ekanayake asks a member of one of the bands as he leaves the theater.
“Yeah. Cool, man,” the band guy replies.
“Nice work,” “Well done,” “Good job,” say Ekanayake’s friends, grinning nervously as they rush out of the theater.
“Are you coming tomorrow night?” he asks one of his actresses.
“Umm…I can’t. Sorry,” she says.
No matter. The film-school dropout (“I didn’t think it was necessary, so I hung out at the diner for five years and learned to write screenplays,” he says) remains convinced that Wild Diner’s a winner. “It’s like a live jam session. For the spontaneity, freshness, offbeatness, I love it!”Guy Raz