Rock Bottom Riser

A familiar figure in the international experimental and artists’ film scene for over a decade, Fern Silva takes on a feature-length format here for the first time. Rock Bottom Riser is a vibrant essay film that combines heterogeneous materials and influences in a surprising palimpsest that traverses geology, ethnography and astronomy. While recalling some of the hybrid research practices of contemporary art, this undertaking also draws on organic and ancestral interpretations of the bonds between humankind, the cosmos, the elements and natural phenomena – here in particular those of the Native Hawaiian population, the insular testing ground on which the film weaves and stretches from ancient times to science fiction, via post-colonialism and pop culture.
The recurring element of powerful footage of Hawaiian volcanoes spouting lava is no coincidence, for the work itself is akin to freshly erupted magma, in a state that is still very fluid and crystallises in the time it takes to watch the film. Rock Bottom Riser feels like it has been shot through a telescope that is looking out into space and time, mapping galaxies in the making and lights that have perhaps already gone out.
by Fern Silva USA 2021 English 70’ Colour

Part of the Berlinale Summer Special


Director Fern Silva
Cinematography Fern Silva
Editing Fern Silva
Music Lea Bertucci, Sergei Tcherepnin
Sound Mike Stoltz
Producer Fern Silva
Executive Producer Fern Silva

Fern Silva

Born in Hartford, Connecticut, USA in 1982, the artist – who has Portuguese roots – studied at the Massachusetts College of Art and Bard College and first began working as a cinematographer and editor. His films, most of which are shot on 16mm, have screened at festivals including Toronto, Berlin, Locarno, Rotterdam, New York, London, Melbourne and Hong Kong as well as at MoMA PS1, New Museum and the Anthology and Harvard film archives. With Peril of the Antilles, Wayward Fronds and Ride Like Lightning, Crash Like Thunder, his work has already been presented three times in Forum Expanded.


2007 Notes from a Bastard Child; short film 2008 Spinners; short film · After Marks; short film 2009 Sahara Mosaic; short film 2010 Servants of Mercy; short film · In the Absence of Light, Darkness Prevails; short film 2011 Peril of the Antilles; short film · Passage Upon the Plume; short film 2012 Concrete Parlay; short film 2013 Tender Feet; short film 2014 Wayward Fronds; short film 2015 Scales in the Spectrum of Space; short film 2017 The Watchmen; short film · Ride Like Lightning, Crash Like Thunder; short film 2021 Rock Bottom Riser

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2021