FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Prize-winning film documents practicing agriculture ‘close to heaven’

Famed for their spectacular beauty and as examples of human ingenuity, the rice terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras may be in danger of disappearing. For her film documenting the ancient rice-growing method used on the terraces, and modern realities that now threaten their survival, German filmmaker Antje Christ won the FAO Osiris Award at the 32nd annual Agrofilm festival here this week.

The 44-minute film, “Close To Heaven – The Rice Terraces of the Philippines,” presents the complexity of rice production on the terraces and shows how this traditional, sustainable method is threatened with extinction.

Rice feeds billions of people worldwide, but Asia is the region that consumes the most. In the Philippines, rice growing is not just food production, but part of the social and cultural fabric. Yet young people today are looking for other, more lucrative – and less physically demanding – ways of earning a living.

Among the Ifugao mountain people, the young are migrating in large numbers to urban areas, leaving their villages and farms behind. The elderly try to maintain the earthen terraces, but often the task proves too much for them.

Recognized in 1995 as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the 2000-year-old Ifugao rice terraces may ultimately benefit from tourism. Interest in this ancient and carefully tended landscape is high among world travellers, and while agriculture itself may be unexciting for young people, working in the tourism industry has some appeal.

“I think documentaries that deal with agriculture and food-related topics are more and more successful,” Christ told FAO. “Filmmakers are already creating great awareness around problems like food waste, or scandals in livestock breeding and keeping. The audience is interested in documentaries like these, and they also work well in cinemas as well as on TV.”

In her film, Christ advocates a sophisticated solution for maintaining the terraced land, canals and dams – one where farmers, communities, public and state authorities and others all have a stake.

7 October 2016, Nitra, Slovak Republic 

Share this page