Rock Bottom Riser


Since 2014, an enormous telescope has been under construction on the peak of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano with sacred importance in the archipelago’s native culture. Protests and debates over the interests and impacts of colonialism and science have followed since, and form the bedrock for Fern Silva’s new essay film. Rather than a conventional overview of the intersections between complicated subjects—exploration, exploitation, culture, land rights, and landscapes—Silva has adopted his own telescopic view of earthbound themes. Through this tight focus, Rock Bottom Riser erupts in volcanic textures and associations, from island flowers to smoke rings to the inexorable crawl of molten rock.

Through the voices of activists, theists, and scientists alike, these images and their already-rich internal dialogue are recontextualized and deepened, shying neither from playful moments of humour nor difficult challenges to the human condition. This is a thoughtful, ravishingly sensorial work of contemplation, one that possesses and instills both cosmic curiosity and a thoroughly grounded earthly experience.

Special Mention, Berlin Encounters 2021


Includes a recorded Q&A with Director Fern Silva. Please note that recorded Q&A's will only be available on VIFF Connect.

Canadian premiere
Director Icon Director
Fern Silva
Producer Fern Silva
Cinematographer Fern Silva
Editor Fern Silva
Music Sergei Tcherepnin, Lea Bertucci
Contact Cinema Guild
USA 2021 70 min. Trailer
Media Partners

This film has Closed Captioning when streaming on VIFF Connect.


Please note this film can only be viewed in Canada when streaming on VIFF Connect.

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Silva-Fern headshot


Fern Silva is an artist who began working as an editor and cameraperson in New York City. His 16mm films have been screened widely in festivals, museums, and cinematheques including the Toronto, Berlin, and Locarno International Film Festivals, MOMA PS1, New Museum, and Harvard Film Archive. He has won awards from the Ann Arbor Film Festival, 25FPS Festival, and the Thessaloniki International Film Festival. His work has been featured in publications including Cinema Scope, Filmmaker Magazine, and Film Comment.