Playing with location and dislocation, British artist filmmaker Ben Rivers’ feature film and installation, The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers (2015) take a large-scale film set as a backdrop, and the BBC’s former prop-making studios as a stage. Rivers uses Ouarzazate, a small town on the border between Morocco’s Atlas Mountains and the desert, as his film location, offering a multifaceted critique of the many films made there in the past, and being made there today. His ethnographically inflected practice blurs facts with fiction, often focusing on socially marginalized characters and locations. Borrowing Trinh T. Minh-ha’s ideas of intercultural cinema, Becca Voelcker discusses in this article The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers’ use of bodily metaphors (eyes, voice and hands) to explore identity and displacement.
The 8-metre-high glass-walled space is cocooned in aperture-like darkness; the film is projected on a loop, and we find ourselves at sea in Caribbean sunlight. Ashes is not a film about death. Though its title might evoke cremation, ultimately it celebrates life. We enter the installation, and Ashes’ life, in medias res, with no context to his earlier life or subsequent misfortune: only his buoyancy.