‘Saxtticho Koddo-The Granary of Salcete’, a documentary by Vince Costa on Curtorim’s agrarian roots, with a special focus on rice cultivation, has been making waves at international film festivals, finds NT BUZZ
CHRISTINE MACHADO | NT BUZZ
Although a tiny state, there are many layers to Goa, many of which remain relatively unknown, at times, even to locals. Among the many interesting facets that make Goa, the unique land it is, is the tale of the agrarian community of Curtorim, a village in South Goa which is synonymous with rice cultivation. And it is this story, that local boy and musician Vince Costa has thrown light on through his recent debut documentary ‘Saxtticho Koddo-The Granary of Salcete’.
More widely known for his music prowess, Costa admits that he didn’t start this journey with a film as an end goal. “Being from Curtorim you cannot be separate from the agrarian culture of the village. Even if you’re not an active participant in the daily rigours of farming, you cannot ignore the familiar views and landscapes,” he says. These familiar landscapes however, started to change, as lush fields turned to barren patches. “I was anxious that someday what I took for granted could fade. So I started filming the life of the agrarian community, so I could share that with my children one day,” he says.
Curtorim, he further says, is not an accidental agricultural village. “It is almost by purposeful design that it is an intentional agricultural village. The entire setup is unique. The ‘lakes’ which are tanks, the water harvesting, the ancient system of dispensing this water, so much really,” he says.
From a personal film, the idea slowly evolved and Costa ended up working over the span of four years to bring the story to life.
“The process was very organic. No film crew, big cameras, scripts and the usual, mainly because I was a first timer. It was a purist approach. Almost the entire film is shot with one camera, one lens, one monopod, one microphone, one rain jacket and one umbrella,” he reveals. He later got someone to do the drone shots and used additional mics for the sound design of the film. The biggest challenge, he admits, given that he had no prior filmmaking knowledge, was building physical, mental and emotional stamina.
Apart from the film editor Gasper D’Souza, Costa also received valuable guidance from many people including filmmakers Susheel Kurien and Bardroy Barretto, Fredrick Noronha, Miguel Braganza, Alito Sequeria, and Shrinivas Anantanarayanan who gave the film its look and feel from a design element.
And of course, he also learnt a lot during the process of researching and making the film as he got to experience the life of the farmers from close quarters. “Their frustrations, simple joys, anguish, aspirations, were things I was able to understand unlike before where the people from the agrarian community were at a distance,” he says. “I also began to understand how they are able to read nature signs and interpret them with regards to their farming activity, the closeness they have to their animals, the way they made fertilisers from organic methods, native seeds they used and the value of those seeds.”
The film also inspects various areas that affect farming today from the lack of dignity of labour and pride, the low economic value for the farming community, the loss of control of the changing weather patterns to a shift in attitude with the children in the agrarian communities, the migration of Goans for better prospects abroad and so forth. “These are just some of the issues that have contributed to a change. The question that we need to ask is, how can we honour the farmer who toils endlessly and gets back very little for his work? How do we restore pride and respect?” says Costa, who believes that rice is very intrinsic to Goa’s cultural identity. “Rice shows up in our religious celebrations, in our medicinal practices, in our art as painting, lyrics, in our language in proverbs. It is a great leveller and brings everyone onto the same platform,” he believes.
The film which won the Asia Independent Film Festival in 2018, will now be at the Royal Anthropological Institutes Film Festival in Bristol this month. It will then journey to the Ethnografilm Festival in Paris. The film will be screened in Lisbon too. Besides the festivals, the film will be screened for the Goan community at various locations in Goa and overseas. In fact, it has already been screened at a few locations in Goa including Fundacao Oriente, Panaji and Clube Harmonia de Margao recently.
And Costa is hopeful that film enthusiasts will seek to make more films about Goa.
“We don’t have a documentary culture in Goa and I feel that there is an urgent need for us as a community to explore this avenue. There are so many stories that need to be told and facets of our culture that need to be documented,” he says.
Costa’s production company RedMackerel in fact is meant to create more films inspired by Goan stories. “We need to take our stories to the world and share them, and in return watch their stories thereby using the power of visual arts in a powerful way. Stories are very powerful things,” he says.