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.