RICE the movie

When I was 15, Argentina invaded and occupied the Falkland Islands. As a result, my high school in Uruguay received a rush of foreign students that allowed me to make interesting friends from all parts of the world. Up until then, I had been firmly placed within the “OTHER” category at school for as long as I had been in attendance, permanently marginalized as an economic misfit within the minds of my extremely wealthy classmates. No matter how fast i completed mathematical assignments or how many athletic trophies or singing and acting awards I achieved, it seemed clear that I was not ever going to be accepted as part of their group. It wasn't their fault, of course. That is what innocent childhood can look like. Either way, The influx of new faces from foreign lands meant a potential intermission from alienation and offered new and exciting opportunities for much needed connection. That being said, I was completely unaware that this happy event in my young life was only made possible by a war that had been started by a government running one of the bloodiest military dictatorships in South America. A year later, the war over, my international friends returned to their own countries, disappearing almost as suddenly as they had arrived. While I was still coming to terms with their departure, my mother, who had often appeared distant and in the midst of her own internal war, departed as well dying of cancer and carving a deep sense of longing that I knew instantly would never be satisfied in Uruguay. To me, these painful losses completely severed the already frayed umbilical cord that had tenuously connected me with all that had been familiar. It was clearly my time to say goodbye and to begin what continues to be a long and exciting travel adventure, meeting the people and places of “the world”. At 18, “the world” became my hometown. It will always be where I am from and where I am headed.

With my departure from Uruguay I have had the privilege of connecting with warm strangers who have opened their doors wherever I have travelled. Having felt unwelcome at times within my own family and within my country of origin, felt strange at times. But it helped create a different perspective and allowed me to greet the unknown with an open mind and an open heart. Today, the unknown seems to be portrayed as dangerous and we are explicitly warned to distance ourselves accordingly, to build walls against, tighten our borders, increase security and always keep our doors and hearts locked. To me and to all warm strangers, citizens of the world who have kindly welcomed me and generously shared their stories throughout my life, I want to express my deepest gratitude. You have inspired me again and again offering me hope and a sense of belonging. This generosity will always represent, to me and many other citizens of the world, not danger, but new and exciting positive potential. It is to this adventurous, warm and inquisitive human quality that I dedicate this film. To that endangered quality in which we dare ask, investigate and confirm before we judge, condemn and shoot. 
RICE is multicultural, but especially for those who can engage not only with their own history, but with the histories of others, for those who welcome new perspectives and languages and for people who will not run away from a movie with subtitles.

The story of "RICE" comes primarily from my experiences in Uruguay and is partly an attempt to reconcile my own past. The male protagonist, Sebastian, was written from a blurred memory of my experiences as a child and the discovery of the history behind that sudden influx of foreign students into the school I attended. The visceral feeling of alienation and marginalization I experienced from an early age is held within the scenes of torture and isolation. 
The female protagonist, Helen, is mostly a fantasy of how my mother’s life could have been had she not been institutionalized at age 15 and stifled by culture, her sister’s envy, and the barbaric mental health practices of their time. Unlike my mother, whose differences, talents, dreams and aliveness were “treated” and medicated out of her in a bid to make others more comfortable with her intense presence, Helen has been written to take charge of her life and to value, create, and maintain enough space to nurture the parts of herself that are singled out as different by others, to understand these parts , integrate them and finally be at peace with herself.

Genetically modified food is to me a main subject of interest that I believe is largely overlooked by the most relevant player; the consumer. This may be due to the biased monetary interest behind it, or not. The fact that there is such controversy around this subject, especially within the world of science, is enough reason to conclude that such products should not be in our mainstream food until long(er) term studies are completed. Nevertheless, since the introduction of genetically modified foods some thirty years ago, we as consumers, could well consider ourselves the main test subjects in a long term experiment we did not consent to. I am just not certain as to who is monitoring the results. 
Initially born and shaped by our unique genetic profiles we are continually modified by our surroundings even after our deaths. Access to healthcare, access to education, organic food and clean water, socio-economic status, personal and vicarious trauma, the everyday atrocities of failed human connection, the resilience of our natures… it all becomes part of us and modifies us. Some of it we can control and some we cannot. Rice is one of the most consumed dietary staples on the planet. Curiously, depending on whose funding is backing the science, the "facts" change. Either way, rice is now open to genetic modification and patented ownership. 
As a species rapidly disconnecting from or degrading the very things that make all life sustainable; the sun, the earth, the quality of our air and water, our crops and the food that we put into our bodies, there are few issues as important, not only to me but to everyone on the planet whether we are aware of it or not.

I personally acknowledge a direct relationship between the quality of all that we take in and our health. So in regard to the themes in this love story, I simply hope to highlight these relationships and remind people that be it human connection or food, we are all individually responsible and in charge of figuring what fuel is best.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
Alex Vargas

 

 




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