Les Gens de la rizière


Time Out says

Paris-resident Rithy Panh's first feature (he was previously a documentarist) is an elegaic, unsentimental tribute to his native Cambodia (in 1979, he escaped, aged 16, from a Khmer Rouge camp), and its peasant people, the farmers of the paddy fields. Impressive as it is - the cast of professionals and non-professionals show extraordinary commitment; the landscape, interiors and actors are finely photographed; and the tone is ably sustained - the film is somehow neither as moving nor as satisfying as it promises to be. Focused on a hard-pressed rice-growing family with its Russian-doll-pack of seven daughters, the film, based on a novel by Shannon Ahmad, follows their travails as the seasons turn and the wife takes over the burden of responsibilty after her husband succumbs to a deadly thorn. Rithy Panh elegantly evokes in ethnographic detail the centuries-old agrarian pattern of their lives, the Buddhist icons, the portentous owls. A mysterious dream of the Khmer Rouge entering the village and an end quote from Rilke suggest that narrative is a metaphor for the people's suffering as a whole under Pol Pot. This is not, however, fully developed. Heartbreaking depictions of pestilence, though, and some memorably expressive scenes with children.


Release details

130 mins

Cast and crew

Rithy Panh
Rithy Panh, Eve Deboise
Peng Phan
Mom Soth
Chhim Naline
Va Simorn
Sophy Sodany
Meas Daniel
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