The Gods of Rice

Dewi Sri dancer2

52 mins Engl., 43 mins German, French, English, co-producer, international co-production with The Moving Visuals Company, Singapore, for ZDF / ARTE, Discovery Channel Asia.

The Gods of Rice is a visual odyssey of how rice has captivated and defined man’s existence. And how  man’s quest to control the grain raises questions about its future.

Through the eyes of a rice historian and anthropologist who travels the world, we explore the rich culture and tapestry of rice that still forms the basis of survival for most people on the planet. In the Central Philippines lies the village of Batad. The Ifugao have lived here and in their rice terraces for over 2000 years. Put end to end their rice fields would circle nearly half the earth. The Ifugao still consider rice a gift from the gods – but today, the gods of science are creating their own rice for the future.  It is a future with uncertain results.

Eric Crystal has been a cultural anthropologist in South-East Asia for years.  He is fascinated by how rice has taken root in Asia and other parts of the world, and yet how most consumers today take it for granted.

He returns to Bali the Indonesian island where he has been doing studies on Subak Water Temples.  Here, a unique blend of technological efficiency and religious ritual work together create a perfect ecological balance.  For years, people here and across Asia have treated rice as a food of the Gods.  As he explores its legends, we see how rice has formed a crucial part of Asia’s creation – both in myth and reality.

But now, the evolution of rice stands at a new frontier.  The world will soon not have enough land to grow the rice that it needs.  Because of that, scientists from the International Rice Research Institute have been engineering super grains that will address the imbalance and improve nutrition among the world’s rice eating populations.

Eric meets the New Gods of Rice at the International Rice Research Institute on the Philippines – the biotech scientists that have spent years generating a new strain. It is called “Golden Rice” – a product of German, Swiss and British scientists that may succeed in giving rice a new future.  So much rests on “Golden Rice” that it has been called the Rosetta stone of all genetically modified crops.  If Golden Rice is successful, it will pave the way for even more crops.

The Gods of Rice  will change the way that people look at the humble rice grain by revealing the fascinating history, complexity and the struggle behind its evolution.