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The judgment inspired film-maker Chandran Rutnam to take on ‘According to Matthew’


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When popular Sri Lankan Film Director Chandran Rutnam sets out to shed light on the biological, psychological and environmental influences that shaped the character of the well-known priest, he found himself face to face with one of the most terrifying men.

Rutnam, who lived in Hollywood for over 40 years and hobnobbed with the rich and famous of the film industry, tells the story behind the controversial film.

“I met Fr. Mathew Pieris at the Welikada Prison and found him still hanging on to his innocence with a sort of arrogant stance. He wanted me to do a movie and clear his name in the eyes of the public. However, I knew deep inside that he was indeed guilty,” Rutnam mused. “It was with a sense of trepidation that I set out to plan out the direction as I knew the Reverend from my youth since he was the family vicar.” 

Rutnam continued, “The idea of a film was gnawing at me, and when I shared my thoughts with Alston Koch, I was convinced that it was a good story for a film.”

Amidst several challenges from the Anglican Church for obvious reasons, friends and family of the priest, and studying the circumstances of the case, Rutnam was inspired to bring out the callous abuse of power of those in authority not only in this instance, but nationally and globally, especially in atrocities committed in the form of teacher-pupil, clergy-laity, employer-employee and other administrative authority and who get away with it.

Rutnam shared: “The flip side of the equation was to highlight the justice of the legal system that metes out punishment without bias to those found guilty.”

In this case, Matthew Pieris pursued pleasure to his detriment, but continued to live in denial with a daredevil catch-me-if-you-can attitude. Rutnam claimed: “Fr. Matthew was a typecast of the Russian Rasputin who made friends in high places and exploited the vulnerable.” He continued: “They say that all good things come to an end, but in this case the bad followed him to his end with the justice system convicting him to death by hanging.”

‘According to Matthew’ is one of Rutnam’s most audacious direction feats. With this movie, the master of film direction turns a real life shocking scandal into a full-length feature, and shows us the ugly flipside of the vicious crimes perpetrated that made Matthew Pieris’s name synonymous with crime.

The movie ends with Rutnam perpetuating his opinion that justice needs to prevail in every instance. He states: “Trust could be abused; therefore, man should always be conscious of safeguarding himself.”


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