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When I was 15, Argentina started a war in the Falkland Islands and a rush of foreign students came to the school I attended in Uruguay. I made friends from all parts of the world and was completely unaware that the war had been started by a government that was running one of the bloodiest military dictatorships in South America. Two years later, all my international friends went back to their countries and my mother died. For me, that marked my time to travel and meet the world.

Ever since I left Uruguay at age 18, I’ve had the privilege of encountering warm strangers and open doors wherever I travelled. Today, we tend to focus on the danger of the unknown rather than focusing on its positive potential. I am grateful to all the strangers who saw potential and shared part of their lives with me. It is to that human quality that I dedicate this film; a quality in which we dare ask, investigate and confirm before we judge. RICE is for those who can engage with other histories, perspectives and languages and for people who won’t run away from a movie with subtitles.

The story in RICE comes primarily from my experiences in Uruguay and is partly an attempt to reconcile my own past. The male protagonist, Sebastian, has been created as a mirror of my experiences growing up to discover the history behind that sudden influx of foreign students into the school I attended.
The female protagonist, Helen, is a projection of how my mother’s life could have been had she not been institutionalized at age 15 and stifled by her culture. As opposed to my mother, who was basically pacified until they deemed her to be normal, Helen has been written to take charge of her life and to figure out on her own how to balance her abilities.

You will also find a parallel story that includes the subject of transgenic plants. These days anything can be marketed into a household staple, given the right budget. It's my belief that powerful corporations decide what food we eat, without much regard for our health. I want to portray this reality without creating yet another quickly forgotten documentary about factory food. If corporations can successfully sell our kids "natural" breakfast cereal behind a "story" about a cartoon tiger plus some sugar, then sweet fiction is probably a better strategy to get people's attention. In these times where we don't care to know where food comes from, fiction proves to be more effective than fact.

 

Alex Vargas