Thailand / 75 mins / Rotterdam 2014
Directed by Uruphong Raksasad / Extra Virgin
This is a visual record of rice culture and its influences on the people in different parts of Thailand. The lyrical structure of this documentary film reflects the melodies in the songs of rice, crafted and composed by the diverse harmonies of the people who may sing in different voices but who share the same heart.
This is the final movie in the rice trilogy that began with STORIES FROM THE NORTH and AGRARIAN UTOPIA.
The feeling lingers, and my thoughts on rice remain vivid. Even after I’ve told the stories of rice and rice people in the movies, STORIES FROM THE NORTH and AGRARIAN UTOPIA, I feel the urge to keep going, to get back to the rice paddies, and to dispel the shreds of anxiety that cling inside. Any filmmaker who’s set out to do a trilogy would never find peace of mind unless he finishes all the three films, otherwise it’s impossible for him to move on to another project. The third film must be completed so the curtain can be drawn. Whether I will return to visit the story of rice again in the future remains to be seen.
In STORIES FROM THE NORTH, I merged documentary film with fiction and unfold the stories in several small yet distinguishable parts. AGRARIAN UTOPIA, meanwhile, is fiction that relies on the documentary format, even though the process and the development of the idea were sometimes turned upside down.
In THE SONGS OF RICE, my intention is to loosen the strict frame of thought in documentary filmmaking. I want to reveal more of the process by following non- preconception style; it is a record of reality and what actually happens before my eyes. To me, this is how a documentary film can breathe. This is how we capture the existence of story, instead of shaping it.
When an artist paints a flower with water color, what is more important: the finished picture of the flower, or the moment of execution when the artist dips his brush in the palette and daubs it on the paper? The final outcome may be the beautiful flower that captivates the viewer, but the process of painting, the ticking of time as the brush makes contact with the paper – that is the special moment for the artist. What about filmmaking? Do we simply look forward to seeing our finished movies, or do we make movies because it’s our lives, because we look forward to that moment when we make contact with the light that falls on the lens and reflects in our eyes? We look forward to make contact with people, with the movement of life before us, with the infinite probability of the universe. We look forward to feeling that magical second – that’s all we want when we make film.
True, we need a frame in our work. But that frame should have an opening, a gap, a hole that works as ventilation which allows the work to breathe the same air as the people outside do. That’s how art communicate with the people. Otherwise, that frame will become metal bars that lock the artist inside his own world, sadly disconnected from the reality out there.
Born in 1977 to a farming family in the district of Terng, 60 kilometres from Chiang Rai, the northern part of Thailand, Uruphong came to the capital for the first time when he was 18, to further his study at Thammasat’s Faculty of Journalism and Mass Communications where he majored in film and photography. After graduation in 2000, he had worked as a film editor and postproduction supervisor for several Thai feature films. Since 2004, he left quietly from the industry and has tried to achieve his grassroots filmmaking through the story from his home village.