Bitter Rice (Italian: Riso Amaro), is a 1949 Italian film made by Lux Film, written and directed by Giuseppe De Santis. Produced by Dino De Laurentiis, starring Silvana Mangano, Raf Vallone, Doris Dowling and Vittorio Gassman, Bitter Rice was a commercial success in Europe and America. It was a product of the Italian neorealism style. The film was nominated for the 1950 Academy Award for Best Story. It was also entered into the 1949 Cannes Film Festival.
Bitter Rice begins at the start of the rice-planting season in Northern Italy. In an effort to escape the law, two small-time thieves, Francesca (Doris Dowling) and Walter (Vittorio Gassman) hide amongst the crowds of female workers heading to the rice fields of the Po Valley. While attempting to board the train for the fields, the pair runs into Silvana (Silvana Mangano), a peasant rice worker. Francesca boards the train with Silvana, who introduces her to the planter's way of life. Francesca does not have a work permit and struggles with the other undocumented workers (called "scabs") to find a place on the rice fields. After initial resistance from the documented workers and bosses alike, the scabs are allowed a place in the fields. At the fields Silvana and Francesca meet a soon-to-be-discharged soldier, Marco (Raf Vallone), who unsuccessfully tries to attract Silvana's interest. Soon after, Walter tracks down Francesca at the rice fields, and plots to steal rice from the storehouses during the celebration at the end of the planting season. Silvana is attracted by what she sees as the glamour of Walter's wealth, and becomes his new partner in crime. Francesca, meanwhile, is increasingly disenchanted with her former criminal lifestyle.