Jessica Sarah Rinland (SMACT ’18) Film Screenings May 22-24 at Anthology Film Archives

Jessica Sarah Rinland, Those That, At a Distance, Resemble Another, 2019. Film still.
ACT at MIT

Streaming May 22 – 24
THOSE THAT, AT A DISTANCE, RESEMBLE ANOTHER (2019, 67 min, Super-16mm-to-digital)
BLACK POND (2018, 42 min)
EXPRESSION OF THE SIGHTLESS (2016, 7 min)
Ý BERÁ – AGUAS DE LUZ (BRIGHT WATERS) (2016, 10 min)
THE FLIGHT OF AN OSTRICH (SCHOOLS INTERIOR) (2016, 4 min)
NECROPSY OF A HARBOUR PORPOISE (SEEING FROM OUR EYES INTO THEIRS) (2015, 11 min)
Click here to access these programs (this link will not be live until Friday morning).

THOSE THAT, AT A DISTANCE, RESEMBLE ANOTHER

This first feature-length work by Jessica Sarah Rinland (SMACT ’18) builds upon and amplifies the themes and techniques that she has been exploring throughout her career as a filmmaker. Jessica has made more than a dozen films and installations over the past decade or so, most of which have gravitated around themes relating to the natural sciences, and the intersections between natural, social, and economic histories. Her work has also demonstrated a striking preoccupation with, and sensitivity to, the tactility of surfaces and textures, whether human, animal, organic, or mineral.

THOSE THAT, AT A DISTANCE beautifully crystallizes the concerns of her earlier films into a compact but intellectually and thematically rich documentary essay on the strange dynamic that emerges when natural artifacts enter the realm of the museum or laboratory. Ostensibly a document of the replication of an ivory elephant tusk – an extraordinarily labor-intensive and detail-oriented process, which Rinland films with exquisite patience and elegance – THOSE THAT, AT A DISTANCE was in fact shot at a wide variety of institutions, from natural history, art, and archaeological museums to science and conservation labs. Rinland’s film is simultaneously abstract and hyper-concrete thanks to its strategy of almost entirely dispensing with talking heads or establishing shots, instead comprising a mosaic of close-ups on hands as they manipulate, explore, and reproduce objects of almost every imaginable physical property and texture. More free-form visual essay than didactic reportage, it becomes an invigorating and profoundly thought-provoking meditation on forms of representation, the relationship between the real and the replica, and the stubborn persistence in a digital era of the palpable, tactile, and irreducible.

“Not all reproductions are mechanical, even in our age of digital imagery, 3D printing, and instantaneous communication. It is still necessary to create physical facsimiles of various artifacts of material culture, such as fossils, ancient pottery, and tools. […] Exhibiting affinities with the late Harun Farocki, Rinland attends to the intimate details of work, showing us that the production of cultural memory is, ultimately, a process of collective labor.” –Michael Sicinski, VIENNALE

These virtual screenings are co-presented by Film at Lincoln Center’s annual festival, Art of the Real, which offers a survey of the most vital and innovative voices in nonfiction and hybrid filmmaking. THOSE THAT… is part of the 2020 lineup of Art of the Real. Thanks also to MUBI, which will host the film’s SVOD premiere engagement later this summer or fall.


SHORT FILM PROGRAM

Jessica Sarah Rinland’s body of moving-image work has taken shape over a period of only ten years or so, but already comprises more than a dozen short films and installations. Though the techniques she adopts have varied widely, her films demonstrate a strong, highly distinctive preoccupation with the intersection between the natural world, the natural sciences, and social and economic history. Her moving-image work is rife with animal and plant life, as well as with related human endeavors from whale-hunting and logging to the activities taking place at natural history museums and labs. Jessica’s profound sensitivity to the mysteries and textures of natural phenomena (including the textures of the 16mm film medium), and her genuine engagement with the methods of scientific inquiry, combine with an incisive and even satirical questioning of the ways in which the authors of documentary and educational films have conventionally conveyed their messages. Her films call attention to and sometimes parody the detached tone, faux authority, and supposed scientific objectivity that defines the typical nature documentary. By mimicking this approach – but with narrators and “facts” that may not be as reliable as they seem – she opens up a fascinating space between an investigation into nature and an investigation into humanity’s relationship to the natural world.

BLACK POND (2018, 42 min)
Explores the activity within a common land in the south of England. Previously occupied by the 17th-century agrarian socialists, the Diggers, the land is currently inhabited by the Elmbridge Natural History Society, whose occupations include bat and moth trapping, mycology, tree measuring, and botanical walks. During two years of filming on the land, the footage was regularly shown to the members of the Society. Their memories and responses were recorded and subsequently used as part of the film’s narration.

EXPRESSION OF THE SIGHTLESS (2016, 7 min)
A blind man’s inquisitive hands explore a Victorian sculpture.

Ý BERÁ – AGUAS DE LUZ (BRIGHT WATERS) (2016, 10 min)
Accounts ranging from varying moments in human history describe the organisms that inhabit the second largest wetland in the world, Ibera, Argentina. Taken from historical and current facts, as well as fictional accounts of the Argentine landscape, the voiceover and text reflect how the dissemination of knowledge in film has changed throughout history.

THE FLIGHT OF AN OSTRICH (SCHOOLS INTERIOR) (2016, 4 min)
The ostrich is incapable of doing the one thing birds are famous for: they cannot fly. They compensate by having the largest eyes and by being the fastest birds on land. A chin-down, shy eight-year-old girl watches an educational video about ostriches, grasps an opportunity, and flies in the face of her peer group.

NECROPSY OF A HARBOUR PORPOISE (SEEING FROM OUR EYES INTO THEIRS) (2015, 11 min)
A response to Stan Brakhage’s THE ACT OF SEEING WITH ONE’S OWN EYES, this film examines the ever-enigmatic whale by revealing its interior, taking away its mystery and disparity, and highlighting similarities between seemingly contrasting, expired organisms.

Anthology had planned to host the week-long theatrical premiere run of Jessica Sarah Rinland’s THOSE THAT, AT A DISTANCE, RESEMBLE ANOTHER in May. They are also presenting a single-program selection of Rinland’s short films, during the same period (May 22-24). Click here to access that program (this link will not be live until Friday morning).