Ben Rivers

THE SKY TREMBLES AND THE EARTH IS AFRAID AND THE TWO EYES ARE NOT BROTHERS

Premiered at Locarno Film Festival, Switzerland
11 August 2015 - 21 March 2016

Film: Trailer

2 minutes 5 seconds
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A director abandons his film. Part documentary, part fable, Ben Rivers rethinks Paul Bowles's brutal short story A Distant Episode (1947). Shot in 16mm against the dizzying landscape of the Atlas Mountains and the desert sands of the Moroccan Sahara, Rivers's footage takes the viewer on several parallel journeys through documentary and fiction.

The camera tracks real film director Oliver Laxe, also on location in Morocco shooting his own film Las Mimosas. Abandoning set and crew, Laxe begins to take on the role of Bowles's protagonist, a professor of linguistics travelling through Morocco in the late 1940s whose rapid descent into misadventure and madness gives Rivers' film a chilling change of direction.

THE SKY TREMBLES AND THE EARTH IS AFRAID AND THE TWO EYES ARE NOT BROTHERS had its world premiere at Festival del film Locarno 12 – 14 August 2015 and will be screened in UK cinemas from 6 May 2016. Please see below for upcoming screenings.

Some of the raw footage from this film was included in The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers, an installation by Ben Rivers in studios at BBC TV Centre in London.


This trailer is also available to watch on Vimeo and YouTube. The full film is 98 minutes, 35mm, in Arabic / Spanish / French with English subtitles.

Image: Still from Ben Rivers, THE SKY TREMBLES AND THE EARTH IS AFRAID AND THE TWO EYES ARE NOT BROTHERS (2015)

*The title of this film is intentionally given in full upper case letters.

Making THE SKY TREMBLES: Ben Rivers and Oliver Laxe in conversation

with Kieron Corless from Sight & Sound Magazine as part of the BFI London Film Festival
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Ben Rivers and Oliver Laxe in conversation

...finding this pulpy paperback of Paul Bowles stories and really loving them, but there was this one story in particular – A Distant Episoide – which ends the book. I kept coming back to it, it kept haunting me. – Ben Rivers

Following a screening as part of the BFI London Film Festival, director Ben Rivers and actor/filmmaker Oliver Laxe participated in a Q&A with Kieron Corless from Sight & Sound Magazine.

Recorded Sunday 18 October 2015, Ritzy Picturehouse Cinema, Brixton, London, United Kingdom.

This video is also available to watch on Vimeo and YouTube.


Image: Oliver Laxe in a film still from Ben Rivers's THE SKY TREMBLES AND THE EARTH IS AFRAID AND THE TWO EYES ARE NOT BROTHERS (2015)

DVD: THE SKY TREMBLES AND THE EARTH IS AFRAID AND THE TWO EYES ARE NOT BROTHERS

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THE SKY TREMBLES AND THE EARTH IS AFRAID AND THE TWO EYES ARE NOT BROTHERS

£12.99 from Amazon 
   £9.99 on iTunes

At the heart of the film's layered narratives is an adaptation of A Distant Episode, the savage short story set in Morocco by American author Paul Bowles, first published in 1947. Moving between documentary, fiction and fable, The Sky Trembles... sees its protagonist, filmmaker Oliver Laxe, directing his own film in Morocco, Las Mimosas, before walking off set and into Rivers' narrative.

The DVD also includes A Distant Episode (18 minutes), Mohammed Mrabet (18 minutes) and a video interview with  Ben Rivers and Michael Morris (8 minutes).

  • Artangel and BFI present an Artangel production in association with the Whitworth Gallery
  • Feature Running Time: 95 minutes
  • Colour/PAL
  • DVD Region: Free
  • Feature Aspect Ratio: 16 x 9 (1:66:1)
  • Sound: Stereo
  • Language: English (English Subtitles: Hard of Hearing Subtitles: Audio Description)

Radio series: Harmless Poisons, Blameless Sins

Five part radio series originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4
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Radio series: Harmless Poisons, Blameless Sins 

Mrabet’s stories were gathered, transcribed and translated by the American novelist Paul Bowles in the 1940s, eventually published in a series of anthologies. Selecting from the collections entitled M’Hashish and Harmless Poisons Blameless Sins, Rivers embeds the tales in a mosaic of sounds from the dramatic Moroccan landscape. The selected stories were read by Youssef Kerkour over the course of four evenings on BBC Radio 4

The series is soundtracked by Ben Rivers and Philippe Ciompi and produced by Russell Finch, Somethin’ Else, as part of Radio 4’s collaboration with Artangel to commission new works from British contemporary artists.

Episode 1: Two stories from M’Hashish, The Young Man Who Lived Alone and Two Friends And The Rain (left) is also available to listen to on Soundcloud


You can listen to the other episodes on Soundcloud. 

Episode 2: The story of Hassan And The Aghrebia

Episode 3: The Owl and The Dog

Episode 4: The Diamond and The Light

Episode 5: The Rat


Image: Ben Rivers and Mohamed Mrabet in Morocco (2015). Photograph: Yuki Yamamoto

Book: THE SKY TREMBLES AND THE EARTH IS AFRAID AND THE TWO EYES ARE NOT BROTHERS

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THE SKY TREMBLES AND THE EARTH IS AFRAID AND THE TWO EYES ARE NOT BROTHERS

£15.00 from Cornerhouse

It seems there was a man named Ben Tajah who went to Fez to visit his cousin. The day he came back he was walking in the Djemaa el Fna, and he saw a letter lying on the pavement. He picked it up and found that his name was written on the envelope. Inside was a paper which read: The sky trembles and the earth is afraid, and the two eyes are not brothers." Ben Tajah did not undersrand, and he was very unhappy because his name was on the envelope. — Paul Bowles, A Distant Episode

An artist book, this edition comprises extensive selection of colour film stills, production photographs by Yuki Yamamoto, and Rivers’ own preparatory drawings (maps, story boards, annotations) as well as facsimile reprints of stories by Bowles — in particular, A Distant Episode, from which the film takes its name — and extracts from his storytelling muse, Mohammed Mrabet.

  • Published as part of Ben Rivers' The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers, commisioned by Artangel, the Whitworth, The University of Manchester and the BFI's Film Fund, with the support of Arts Council England
  • Designed by åbäke
  • Edition of 1,500, 128 pages
  • Faux-leather softback
  • 180 x 130mm
  • ISBN: 9781902201306

Production Credits

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Production Credits

Written and directed by Ben Rivers

Producer: Jacqui Davies
Executive producers: Michael Morris, Cressida Day, and Lizzie Francke
Co-producer: Ben Rivers
Featuring: Oliver Laxe
Director of Photography: Ben Rivers
Editors: Ben Rivers and Benjamin Mirguet
Supervising Sound Editor: Philippe Ciompi

Complete credits including cast and crew


Image: Ben Rivers filming in Morocco. Photograph: Yuki Yamamoto

Press

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Stray, sunstruck images and whirring sonic accents are likely to rattle persistently in the memories even of those perplexed by their notional meaning. – Guy Lodge, Variety

Selected Press

Stray, sunstruck images and whirring sonic accents are likely to rattle persistently in the memories even of those perplexed by their notional meaning. – Guy Lodge, Variety, 3 October 2015
Rivers throws a curveball when Laxe's director is suddenly abducted by locals and turned into a grotesque entertainment himself. Clad in a sack festooned with the lids of rusted tin cans, the director is dragged around landscapes that no longer hold any wonder for him. – Jake Cole, Slant Magazine, 18 September 2015
The film has the advantage of Rivers’ knack for mesmerizing texture, especially when it comes to the soundtrack, which is thick with magnetic scratches, analog hiss, and natural sounds. – AV Club, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, AV Club, 13 Sept, 2015
Focused, plot driven and conceptually complex. – Dan Kidner, Frieze, September 2015
Rivers’ feature is undoubtedly one of the year’s best. – Erica Balsom, Artforum, October 2015
Rivers always remains at a sneaky remove from the heart of the material, never revealing his intentions outright, which in turn gives the film take on its own, fable-like quality. – David Jenkins, Little White Lies, May 2016
Rivers has already proved himself an expert at bending documentary conventions to his will, blurring lines and drawing attention to the intrinsic artifice of his medium, but he’s really outdone himself here, taking the question of what is “real” and answering it with a few questions of his own... this movie will cut open your brainpan with a tin can lid and crawl in deep. – Dustin Krcatovich, TinyMixtapes, May 2016

About Ben Rivers

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Ben Rivers

Ben Rivers was selected as part of the 2013 Open call for proposals from Artangel and BBC Radio 4.

Ben Rivers is an award winning artist and filmmaker represented by Kate MacGarry Gallery in London. Rivers won the FIPRESCI International Critics Prize, 68th Venice Film Festival for his first feature film Two Years At Sea; the inaugural Robert Gardner Film Award, 2013; Baloise Art Prize, Art Basel 42, for Sack Barrow; Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Artists, 2010.

Recent solo exhibitions include: Fable, Temporary Gallery Cologne, 2014; Things, Kate MacGarry Gallery, London, 2014; Ah, Liberty! Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, 2013; Slow Action, Hepworth Wakefield, 2012; Sack Barrow, Hamburg Kunsthalle, 2012 and Hayward Gallery, London, 2011; Slow Action, Matt's Gallery, London and Gallery TPW, Toronto, 2011.

His films have screened worldwide at numerous festivals including Rotterdam Film Festival, where he twice won a Tiger Award for Short Film. His second feature film, co-directed with Ben Russell, A Spell To Ward Off The Darkness, premiered at Locarno International Film Festival, and won top prizes at CPH:DOX and Torino Film Festival. Between 1995 and 2005 he co-programmed Brighton Cinematheque. He is currently a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University.

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Image: (left) Ben Rivers filming; (above) Ben Rivers with Mohammed Mrabet (both Morocco, 2014). Photographs: Yuki Yamamoto

Credits

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Who made this possible?

Credits

THE SKY TREMBLES AND THE EARTH IS AFRAID AND THE TWO EYES ARE NOT BROTHERS has been commissioned by Artangel, the Whitworth, The University of Manchester and the BFI's Film Fund, with the support of Arts Council England

Some sequences in this film also form part of an exhibition, The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers, co-commissioned by Artangel and the Whitworth, The University of Manchester as part of The Artangel Collection.

Artangel is generously supported by the private patronage of The Artangel International Circle, Special Angels and The Company of Angels.


 

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