Ritual, Gender Roles, Religion, And Solidarity In Rithy PanhS Neak Sre (Rice People)

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Ritual, Gender Roles, Religion, and Solidarity in Rithy Panh’s Neak Sre (Rice People) Rithy Panh’s 1994 film Neak Sre (Rice People) depicts the struggles of a Cambodian rice-farming family in post Khmer Rouge Cambodia, following the death of Poeuv, the family patriarch, leaving his wife Om, and their seven daughters Sokha, Sokhoeun, Sokhon, Sophan, Sophoeun, Sophat and Sopheap to care for the paddies. Central to the film are the significance of rituals considered essential to successful rice farming and the consequences of deviation from those rituals. The divergence from these rituals is not strictly limited towards special actions which Westerners would classify as “ritual,” but also include disregard for division of labor according to gender, as well as the importance of mother’s role in the family, and the traditional Buddhist notions of contentment with allowing nature to take its course and avoiding strong attachments. Finally, the theme of solidarity in the face of adversity is continually reinforced throughout. The belief that rice has a (typically female) spirit or soul that must be respected prevails throughout Asia. In Malaysia, a Malay shaman determines which heads of grain embody the rice spirit, and farmers in Thailand care for the rice paddy as though it were a pregnant woman. A similar belief is held in the film, evidenced when Sokha writes, “This year, the rice is quite pregnant,” in a letter to her mother. Accordingly, Poeuv performs a number of rituals in order to appease the Rice Mother. In the rice field, he prays to the spirits: I beg, spirits of Water and Earth, who take care of this land, to aid us in our labor, that all goes well, that we have joy, that we meet no obstacles. That we, your children, enjoy a good harvest, that no beast, no evil spirit disturb us. He further shows respect for the Rice Mother by constructing a

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