Saxtticho Koddo-The Granary of Salcete: A Candid View of 

Farming in Goa

Iris C F Gomes

Vince Costa is a singer and songwriter and now documentary filmmaker from Goa who has put Curtorim on the world map, specifically its rice fields. His documentary Saxtticho Koddo-The Granary of Salcete has won Best Short Documentary at the Asia Independent Film Award 2018 and has been shown at the Royal Anthropological Institute’s Film Festival in Bristol in March 2019 as well as the Ethnografilm Festival in Paris in April 2019. The founder of Red Mackerel communications company, Vince Costa is driven to research and document stories of Goa that encapsulate its culture and distinct identity and that are threatened into oblivion by development and indifference. Saxtticho Koddo is the commendable result of the efforts of Red Mackerel.

Curtorim is a primarily agrarian village that is famous for its rice cultivation, a feature that defines its intrinsic character. This definition is extended to the rest of Goa while the documentary weighs the socio-economic implications of rice farming today. The film extends its focus to elements such as the effects of the vagaries of nature, the dilemma faced by many farmers of remaining in a trying occupation or turning to other prospects, the use of traditional seeds in farming and so on.

Vince, who grew up in the village of Curtorim, says, ‘The tradition of growing rice is very much in our blood. Any Curtorkar you meet, they will always have farming stories. The reason for making the documentary is the disappearance of sights that he was accustomed to growing up in Curtorim. ‘I realised there were large pieces of fields remaining uncultivated,’ he says. Although he did not start out thinking of making a documentary film, his primary goal was to document it for his young daughter so that she would be able to share in the memories of the Curtorim he remembered and cherished.

Vince spent three and a half years filming with the farmers of Curtorim, and he comments on how dedicated they are to their farming, while being quite unpredictable in other areas. Vince says humorously, ‘No one turned up when I invited them to the screening of the film… I learned that while working with the farming community there is no script you can follow’. The farmers would call him at 12pm and tell him, ‘Faleam sokannim paanch horanchem yuo (come tomorrow at 5am),’ so that he could shoot whatever process they were carrying out. Their approach was that he could come if he wanted or not if he didn’t.

Initially, Vince says, the farmers were suspicious of his intentions. They would ask, ‘Kit kot tum eenga (what are you doing here)?’, ‘Konn tum (Who are you)?’ It got to the point where some ladies working in the field would say, ‘Aah, choi. Aylo pisso (look, here comes the mad fellow)! Eventually, of course, they became used to his presence and began inviting him to have tea, which was naturally a good sign.

The comfort that the farmers in the documentary have in facing the camera allows the raw emotions and simplicity of the rustic life in Goa to be splendidly captured. This degree of confidence came about only due to the camaraderie built up with them over the two and a half years that Vince kept visiting the farming areas. Vince also states that another reason for this is his simple method of filming. Having a film crew aid him over three years would have cost a fortune, so he resorted to using one camera, one lens, one monopod, one microphone and one umbrella.

‘The perspective that I wanted to bring when I realised that there was a possibility of making a film was to tell the story of this community as honestly as possible. And also to champion the local farmer. These are the guys who put food on our table. I’m not talking about just the farmers in Curtorim; it is farmers across Goa …,’ says Vince. The farmers of Curtorim could be farmers anywhere in the world as the problems and the stories they tell are similar in many ways.

The making of documentary films to save Goa’s essence for future generations is a fairly new development. ‘We are just starting to go through the birthing process of creating documentary films, of understanding the value: If not telling a story, at least recording it for posterity.’ The film consists of 40 minutes of the 80 hours of data shot by Vince. The footage that was not used in the final cut, Vince suggests, should be archived as well because these images can provide a wealth of information about Goa too.

‘Younger Goan kids who are abroad and usually come to Goa during December have experienced that visual but have never seen Goa in the rains. They don’t know what Goa looks like in the rains. So I think this film comes as close as possible to telling them that there is a different side to Goa,’ says Vince.

Farming needs to become a preferred occupation in these times instead of professional careers according to Vince, who has farming ancestry in his bloodline.

Saxtticho Koddo-The Granary of Salcete is being screened in various places in Goa. Catch the film for a deeper insight into the lives of our Goan farmers, the highs and lows of their lives, their struggles with the daily challenges of farming and their prodigious knowledge and understanding of nature.

*This article is based on a screening of Saxtticho Koddo and discussion held at  Fundação Oriente-India

All photographs courtesy of Vince Costa.