Rice People (1994) is a fascinating ethnographic film from Cambodian director Rithy Panh. Shahnon Ahmad’s source novel Ranjau Sepanjang Jalan was written in 1967 and therefore does not reference the Khmer Rouge genocide that swept the country between 1975 and 1979, claiming millions of lives. Director Panh addresses that subject in his more recent S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine. Rice People’s chronicle of a few critical months in the life of a peasant farming family is told on an intimate scale, yet expands to examine universal issues about the human condition. –DVD Savant
Rithy Panh was born in Phnom Penh. His father was a school teacher and inspector of primary schools.
His family and other residents were expelled from the Cambodian capital in 1975 by the Khmer Rouge. Rithy’s family suffered under the regime, and after he saw his parents, siblings and other relatives die of overwork or malnutrition, Rithy escaped to Thailand in 1979, where he lived for a time in a refugee camp at Mairut.
Eventually, he made his way to Paris, France. It was while he was attending vocational school to learn carpentry that he was handed a video camera during a party that he become interested in filmmaking. He went on to graduate from the Institut des hautes études cinématographiques (Institute for the Advanced Cinematographic Studies). He returned to Cambodia in 1990, while still using Paris as a home base.
His first documentary feature film, Site 2, about a family of Cambodian refugees in a camp on the Thai-Cambodian border in the 1980s, was awarded… read more