Winners of the Asia Pacific Rice Film Award 2008-2009 were announced this week. The award was established ‘to recognise excellence in audio-visual creations on rice-related issues in Asia, where most of the world’s rice is grown and consumed’.
The co-organisers, Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP), TVE Asia Pacific (TVEAP) and Public Media Agency (PMA) of Malaysia, invited innovative film-makers from the Asia Pacific region to submit short creative television, video or cinematic films on rice. I was part of the regional panel of judges.
The film winning the first prize is titled SRI – Challenging Traditions, Transforming Lives (10 mins, 2008). It is directed by Gautam Chintamani in Haryana, India.
I found it a well-focused, positive story compellingly told, with an unhurried script — just enough information, not bombarding the viewer with facts and figures. It’s about a new, more efficient way of growing rice called System of Rice Intensification (SRI).
But this is far from a boring instructional film. It focuses on lives of farmers on and off the field (e.g. SRI’s benefits to women farmers – such as less labour and time intensive). The visual experience is completed by the excellent camera work, sound track and seamless editing – altogether a highly professional production that is also a persuasive advocacy film.
Here’s the official synopsis for the film, taken from Vatavaran 2009 film festival website:
A revolutionary method, System of Rice Intensification (SRI) requires almost no standing water for paddy to grow and is fast transforming the rice cultivation. Developed by a French priest Henri De Launi in the 1980’s in Madagascar, SRI not only uses almost half of the water required but drastically reduces the physical labor associated with rice farming besides increasing the yield by almost one and a half times.For a country like India rice is more than just a mere crop.
There are myths attached to its cultivation. While SRI offers an alternate and a very sustainable method of growing rice it also battles hard with the age-old traditional approach of growing rice. The perils of global warming, the drying up of perennial rivers and the excessive use of fertilizers pose numerous threats to rice cultivation; making life very hard for the humble farmer. SRI offers a workable solution to all problems related to traditional rice cultivation.
SRI- Challenging Tradition, Transforming Lives looks at how SRI is helping the modern farmer cultivate India’s traditional crop without the burden that it had become. In addition the film highlights the transformation in the lives of millions of women who toil the hardest in Indian farmers thanks to SRI reducing the need for manual labor. To its critics the System of Rice Intensification might not be the greatest thing but the fact that SRI significantly reduces the demand for water for rice cultivation makes it worthwhile in the current scenario of the world.
Starting out in 2001-02, Gautam Chintamani worked in the capacity of Associate Producer on India’s first daily news spoof show Khabarein Khabardar. There on he did freelance writing for numerous shows for MTV, Sony and Zee amongst others. He has written and directed an 18 min short film, Alterations. In addition to writing for television Gautam Chintamani regualraly writes for the print and electronic media. He has extensively written for Man’s World, Hard News, Media Trans-Asia and MidDay, rediff.com and Buzz in Town. Gautam also worked in the capacity of Associate Director and Executive Producer of the Hindi feature film, Amavas. Of his television work the law drama, Siddhanth (Star One) was nominated for an Emmy in the International Drama section. Gautam’s episode dealing with an HIV positive college student who fights for her basic right to education was selected as a case study for a Writers workshop conducted by Hero’s Group in Hyderabad & Chennai.