Rice People (1994) Poster


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Stunning !!!
Michael-26916 September 2001
Neak Sre by Rithy Panh shows the life of an ordinary Cambodian rice-farmer and his family. When the father dies after being infected by a thorn, the family has an even harder life to face. They just struggle to survive. But life has to go on... Beautifully shot in Cambodia, with gorgeous panaramic countryside and nice camera-work. The stunning opening-scene with a girl in a lake full of waterlilies you will never forget. Well chosen dialogues and Rithy Panh's way of telling (sad) stories will make this movie to one of my all-time-favourites. If someone wonders what may have happened to those farmers if they migrated to Phnom Penh, I will say Cambodians just love their soil to death, but if you get the chance to see Pahn's Un soir après la guerre, you get that aspect, too. A Soldier returns from battle to PP and have to face poverty,crime and love. My hope is that Rithy Panh gets a bigger audience and his movies are screened more often. Watch this one !!!
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see a lost culture
clueso9 October 2006
Farmers are the unsung heroes of the world. So it is true in Cambodia. This movie is not a documentary but contains more unbiased information than most of todays documentaries. The hardships of peasant life in a small Cambodian Village, waiting twelve full moons since the last harvest and beginning to prepare the fields for the planting. The incidents that occur are fictional but are taken from real stories of real people collected in a refugee camp. I have traveled for ten years in southeast Asia and seen the setting for this film, but I learned more about the resilience of the people and the communal approach to problems that occur day to day. The scenery is also spectacular.If you are lucky enough to see this on DVD there is an excellent interview with the man who made the movie. He is so selflessly true to the culture I hope he is successful in making another movie in Cambodia.
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"Rice People" / "Neak sre" by Rithy Panh
annuskavdpol27 February 2012
"Rice People" / "Neak sre" is a movie about a family who make their living off of the rice that they grow. It is a movie about the challenges that they encounter. I think this movie is the exception rather then the rule of families that have rice fields. In this movie, many things start to go wrong. For example there were at least 6 things in the movie that acted like a domino effect. Producing a negative spiral leading downwards. In a way, this is could be described as a good description of life. However in the movie "Rice People" there is little joy and mostly challenges. There is family-love but love is not always fun and good fortune. Love is also set-backs, sticking together and endurance. So this movie is a pretty good depiction of one family whose love endures through extreme circumstances.
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My kingdom for a handful of rice
Chris_Docker4 April 2010
If life is uncertain, what do we hold onto? And if circumstances dictate that love will bring only pain, what can we look forward to? Even when we know something is not quite true, it can give us comfort. Have you ever known anyone who kept a treasured teddy-bear long past childhood? Holding on to ideas – we may do it for the warmth and sentiment they bring. Give a pet human characteristics. Try maybe to fill a little gap somewhere no human can fill. The religious among us might seek solace in a being for which there is no actual proof. A habit that is harmless yet not justified, other than by our fondness for it.

Cambodian people, officially Buddhist, have a generation-old tendency towards animism, investing everything – from a tree to a rock to a village - with guardian spirits or deities. Before we exclaim, "How backward!" let us remember that we celebrate Father Christmas, and many of us read horoscopes or avoid walking under ladders. Even though we don't 'believe' that the planets control our fate. Or that bad luck in bucketfuls will fall on us from above.

It's just the culture, the way of life. In Rithy Panh's neo-realist film, the Rice People, we look at customs and a way of life that has existed for many years among rice farmers. At times lyrical, at times frightening, we walk into a story of sadness and beauty. Different strains of rice are given different poetic names. Folklore doctors are given due respect – and money; and western-style hospitals, the 'sensible' and even more expensive solution, tried if the more basic approaches don't cut it. With 'fingers crossed' we hope western medicine will work – but of course, that sometimes can't perform miracles either.

The story here is nominally based on the novel, 'No Harvest but a Thorn,' by Shahnon Ahmed. It was previously adapted as a film by Jamil Sulong. Here, Panh says the backbone of the film is a woman he met in a refugee camp towards the end of the Cambodian civil war. She is Yim Om, a mother who loses everything, her family, her meagre sense of security, and even her sanity. Yet Om lives on. It is easy to read this as a symbol for the fate of Cambodia – rather like some other works by Panh such as, One Evening After the War, that probe the complex balance between accepting the crippling ravages of that country from outside, and attempting to survive. But the film's beauty lies in its simplicity, in telling its story in a completely unadorned fashion.

Rice is not the easiest of crops. It needs a lot of attention – as we soon discover. Tending through different seasons, protecting from natural disasters such as flooding and storms – and fighting off predators such as sparrows and crab. Om's village, like many in Cambodia even today, has no running water, no electricity, and not much access to medical care. They have enough rice paddies to eke out a living - and barely that. They know disaster can come from the usual quarters or, recalling the title of Ahmed's book, something as simple as treading on a thorn. Put a foot out of action and the whole body can't perform the needed heavy work at the critical time.

For Om and her husband Poeuv (and their seven daughters) they must carry on even when life seems unremittingly devoid of hope. "I'm like a floating weed carried off by the current," declares Poeuv as one day he lies ill.

The Rice People reconnects us with a simpler way of living. A lifestyle that is hard, yet values the nobility of honest labour. We experience the simple joy of the rain. And for people whose lives depend on it, the joy is perhaps more sincere and heartfelt than that similar joy of young lovers in western movies, singing and frolicking in rain that is of little more significance than not having an umbrella.

When rice – or the weather – can mean the difference between life and death, not just for one's immediate family but for one's children and grand-children, is it not understandable that it begins to assume almost divine personas? In some ways, The Rice People is a meditation on place, on nature. Comparable in some ways perhaps to Bela Tarr's meditations on, and treatment of, buildings and structures: for instance, in The Man from London. Taken with the historical background of Cambodia, its endless struggles and frequent wars not of its own making, this paean to a simple food staple might be considered masterly. But how anthropological are we feeling today? Panh explores colourful facets of village life. From unusual methods of traditional fishing, rituals of cremation, or the horrific (but eminently 'reasonable') methods of handling madness. It fills in many gaps for those curious about a culture and land which is practically unknown in the West. But the downside is that, unless water-logged Cambodian rural life really floats your boat, it may be consigned to that 'worthy but forgettable' shelf of South-East Asian cinema.

Panh, who has seen the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge first hand (and with his film S21 triggered moves for implementing justice in that respect) seems almost an expression of the land that he loves rather than a director-artist 'creating' a movie himself. He is widely respected, from the Cannes Film Festival to Amnesty International, yet it is easy to see how his lesser films could leave some audiences unsatisfied. Rice People maybe makes the grade, but more by dint of the zero competition in the field of great directors from Cambodia than something that strikes a masterchord quite separate from its culture. We are, perhaps, being asked to love the rice fields rather more than the film.
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what to know about the Asian agrarian life-the best film so far.
gangadharpanday27 July 2005
Undoubtedly one of the best films that i have seen on village life. The scene where Vong Poeuv cuts his heel with the razor to get rid of the thorn, is heart touching and moving, the artiste has done a nice job. Om's (Vong's wife) scene in the bar/hotel where she drinks and the transformation she has shown from a sensible, responsible housewife to an obsessed and possessed(!) women is excellent. The last daughter prying along with her mother is refreshing. The large family, the little wish for a son, the helplessness and the innocence, the daughters caring reactions towards their mother in the later half of the film-all leave an enduring emotional feeling in the audience. The scene where the couple move in a boat in a lake and collect the lotus flowers is a tribute to the nature, this scene has created a desire in me to visit and see Combodia.

I recommend this film for all those urban audience for i feel that the city people should know the agrarian lifestyle.
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Cambodian director Rithy Panh makes an excellent film about hard lives of farmers.
FilmCriticLalitRao26 March 2010
Cambodian film "Rice people" is an outstanding work of art about the lamentable plight of women in developed countries.This is one of those films which appears absolutely realist as it has been shot in a quasi documentary style.As ideologies and themes of this film are common to most Asian cultures,one can surmise that any Asian person can easily comprehend its fable like texture which eschews any kind of potent didactic stance.Most of the Asian countries have common characteristics such as farmers with more children and distribution of land.Despite its pessimist stance,Rice People has a highly optimistic,positive charm which comes from the belief that things would change for good.All of us feel that sometimes a film does not remain a film.We all feel that some films must become life by depicting life in such a manner that unreal becomes real.In "Rice People",everything becomes life and it is this difficult albeit serene life in a Cambodian village which has been filmed by famous Cambodian director Monsieur Rithy Panh based in Paris.Film critic/Senior French translator/interpreter Lalit Rao spent a couple of hours discussing films about humanist themes with Monsieur Rithy Panh during Osian Cinefan Asian Film Festival 2005 at New Delhi.
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Malaysian novel turned into Cambodian setting
h-warnk12 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
"Das Reisfeld" give very intimate insights into peasant life in Southeast Asia. The villagers, their behaviour, their fears for the harvest etc. are rather well-portrayed. This movie is based on the novel "Ranjau Sepanjang Jalan" (1967) by the well-known Malaysian author Shahnon Ahmad - which is mentioned in the end credits of the film - but set into the Cambodian landscape - IMDb, please do supplement it in the database...

As such I miss several important sequences. The village elder e.g. turned out to be rather corrupt and cold-hearted in Shahnons novel taking his advantage out of the misery of the poor peasant family, this is nearly mentioned at all. Being put into a Cambodian setting I was surprised that Rithy Panh did not put the killing fields somewhere-somehow into the plot. While the novel depicts the fate of peasants in the 60s in Malaysia, at what time this film then is supposed to be? If it should play in Cambodia after 1979 then Cambodian peasants surely had to suffer under the Khmer Rouge-Regime, but there are no political references made throughout the film.

Despite these critical remarks however, the setting is beautiful, the acting well-done and it still makes a not-all-to-bad movie. It would be funny to compare it with Jamil Sulongs Malaysian film of this novel filmed in 1983.
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preceding "The Missing Picture"
lee_eisenberg18 June 2014
Cambodian director Rithy Panh recently directed the documentary "The Missing Picture", about the genocide under the Khmer Rouge. I didn't previously know that in 1994 he directed "Neak sre" ("The Rice People" in English). This movie is about a family in rural Cambodia that experiences one hardship after another. It is one REALLY grim existence.

I hope that Panh continues making movies. I also hope to see the other movies that he has directed so far. He is doing a masterful job focusing on this country that has endured French colonialism, a CIA-installed stooge, and a genocidal regime. The Cambodian people do what they can to press forward. I really recommend "The Rice People". It goes to show that a good plot is what a movie needs to be good, not nonstop special effects.
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