ROCK BOTTOM RISER
Director: Fern Silva Run Time: 70 min. Release Year: 2021
Starring: Avi Loeb, Kalepa Baybayon, Moses Goods, Nainoa Thompson, Rubellite Johnson
From the earliest voyagers who navigated by starlight, to present-day astronomers scanning the cosmos for habitable planets, explorers have long made Hawaii the hub for their searching. Today—as lava continues to flow on the island—another crisis mounts as scientists plan to build the world’s largest telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii’s most sacred and revered mountain.
In his dynamic feature debut, Fern Silva examines myriad encounters with an island world at sea. Drawing from subjects as seemingly disparate as the arrival of Christian missionaries and the controversial casting of Dwayne Johnson as King Kamehameha, the film weaves a vital tapestry of post-colonialism and pop culture with cinematic brio and a wry wit. Rock Bottom Riser is an essential document and an exhilarating tour-de-force, a palimpsest that traverses geology, ethnography and astronomy.
“Neither a nature film nor an issue film, but rather an experimental fusion of the two forms that results in an essayistic and fascinating something else entirely. The main focus, from which Silva expands outward in several thematic directions, is the proposed construction of a gigantic telescope on sacred Hawaiian land and the protests that the proposal sparked. The earth itself, however, might be considered an equally central subject, with overhead and up-close footage of lava pouring out from volcanoes serving as the film’s mesmerizing visual spine. The editing between disparate kinds of images allows for all sorts of interesting associations, some which are lightly amusing, such as a brief stop-over at a vape shop called “Volcano,” where a few dudes demonstrate serious talent for blowing smoke rings. The icing on the cake is the burbling electronic score, which sounds as if its beats are dictated by the bubble and flow of the magma.” – Michael Clawson, Letterboxd
“huge release for fans of lava” – Katherine Krueger, Letterboxd