ROCK BOTTOM RISER
As lava continues to flow from the earth’s core on the island of Hawaii – posing an imminent danger – a crisis mounts. Astronomers plan to build the world’s largest telescope on Hawaii’s most sacred and revered mountain, Mauna Kea.
We hear Simon and Garfunkel sing the refrain – “I am a rock, I am an island” – which the film then seems to make its own. A facetious refrain, for while no man is an island, no island could deny its relationships of interdependence: knowledge of these relationships is precisely what defines insular intelligence. It is the complex tangle of these relationships that attracts Fern Silva to Hawaii, just when a 30-metre telescope, produced by international cooperation for an astronomical sum of money, is about to be installed on the sacred Mauna Kea mountain. The project encounters strong local opposition, which has found a spokesman in actor Dwayne Johnson (The Rock), who is likely already trying on the costume of King Kamehameha, whose role he is preparing to play in Robert Zemeckis’ future film. The whole film is like an extraordinary palimpsest of the situation. Drawing on the ancestral knowledge of Polynesian navigation, the story of evangelising missions, the observatory’s search for alien intelligence and other inhabitable planets while a mantle of lava still threatens to cover the populated plains, Rock Bottom Riser explores Hawaii’s syncretism and the influence of a colonialism revived by science, under a continuous flow that transforms its different fragments into a single red-glowing jewel.
Fern Silva (b. 1982, USA/Portugal), is an artist who began working as an editor and cameraman in New York. While his early films addressed his relationship with Portugal, he later broadened his focus to highlight the influence of industry on culture and the environment on a global level. For more than a decade, his 16mm films have been screened in numerous festivals, museums and cinematheques. His work has won awards at the Images Festival (Jury Award), the Ann Arbor Film Festival (Gus Van Sant Award), the 25FPS Festival (Grand Prize), and most recently the Agora Award for Post-Production at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival. His work has been featured in publications such as Cinema Scope, Filmmaker Magazine and Film Comment. He has taught film at various institutions such as the University of Illinois at Chicago, Bard College and Bennington College. He studied film at Massachusetts College of Arts and Bard College and is a member of the Film Study Center at Harvard University.