We have had a fantastic time at the Lifescapes Film Festival in Chiang Mai. The selection of films so far has been spot on. The Open Air Cinema Foundation (OACF) is looking to work with many of the directors here to find ways to screen their work on open air screens throughout the region, particularly during OACF’s Mekong Mobile Film Festival to take place next year.
Agrarian Utopia was the first film screened at the festival today. Its a beautiful film by Uruphong Raksasad. Take a look at the trailer for a glimpse.
Facing seizure of their own lands, two families found themselves farming together on the same field, hoping to get through just another rice-farming season like every year. But no matter how much the world is evolving, how much the country is going through economic, political and social changes, they still cannot grasp that ideology of happiness.
How can we dream of utopia while our stomach is still grumbling?
Born in 1977 to a farming family in the district of Terng – 60 kilometres from Chiang Rai, northern part of Thailand, Uruphong Raksasad came to Bangkok for the first time when he was 18 to further his study at Thammasat University’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 post-production 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.
Apart from filmmaking, what interests me to an equal extent is agriculture. I feel it is among mankind’s most noble professions. To compare, in agriculture we get to produce food from the soil for direct consumption, while other occupations only produce us income for buying food. I wonder whether all these professions we have in the world (including filmmaking) are really necessary. How much does the world really need them? I feel that the more we complicate things, the more it produces emptiness and unfulfillment in return, one way or another.
Modern agriculture is facing problems on many levels, from land ownership to national policy’s focus on economic growth and international competition. What are all these for ultimately? I wonder if globalization forces today have become much more powerful than national governments. I don’t know where it will take us.
Agriculture in Thailand today, and perhaps throughout the world as well, is mostly no longer about household use. It’s just another industrial business of trades, with an aim to make money for solving other problems that we caused, directly and indirectly. So farmers now need to focus on productivity by using chemicals and machines, and obviously they put less importance on food safety. With this, Thailand no longer has what it takes to claim to be the granary of the world. I was born a farmer’s son. Although my parents didn’t expect me to farm for a living, as they see it’s hard work and earns little. We can no longer farm in any case for two reasons: one is that the bank has already taken almost all our lands. And second, farming won’t help us paying off all our debts in this lifetime. We are not able to live the idealistic, utopian life. We can only do the best we could to get by, that’s all.