Modern agriculture is a multi-trillion-dollar business involving complex multinational treaties and trade laws. With globalization controlling the production of food, governments are beset with problems regarding land ownership, price control and international competition. However, it’s not farming as a manufacturing process that interests director Uruphong Raksasad; it’s how we produce food for our own consumption, by tilling the soil ourselves.
Agrarian Utopia follows the daily lives of two rural families who, faced with crippling interest rates on bank loans, pool their resources together to grow rice on the same patch of land. Though their crops are abundant, prices are low, and they are forced to resort to other means in order to survive. A neighbour who used to be a professor espouses the benefits of organic, no-chemicals farming techniques, but alas, even his cheerful demeanour masks a sad personal history. Meanwhile, political rallies are being staged across the country, but is there actually anyone who is standing up for the common people like them?
A farmer’s son himself who grew up amid verdant rice paddies and a community centred on the harvest, director Raksasad shares his keen eye for stunning visuals. From paddy fields to electrical storms, he captures it all with poetic and mesmerizing grace. In highlighting traditional farming methods, he paints a charming portrait of a simpler, idyllic life in harmony with the earth. The “actors” look so convincing that the film could easily be mistaken for a documentary. Quietly affecting as well as politically sensitive, Agrarian Utopia gives us food for thought.
Prayad Jumma, Somnuek Mungmeung, Sai Jumma
Uruphong Raksasad was born in Chiang Rai, in Northern Thailand. He majored in film and photography at Thammasat University. After graduating in 2000, he worked as an editor and post-production supervisor for major Thai film studios. In 2004 Raksasad left urban life to return to his rural roots and began filming life in farming communities with shorts such as The Way (2005), The Longest Day (2005) The Harvest (2005), The Rocket (2007), and The Planet (2007), and the documentary Stories from the North (2005).
NETPAC Jury Award – Brisbane International Film Festival
Golden Hanoman Award – Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival
Special Mention – Barcelona Asian Film Festival
NETPAC Special Mention – International Film Festival Rotterdam