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.