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TORONTO 2019 Wavelengths

Review: Those That, at a Distance, Resemble Another


- Argentine-British filmmaker Jessica Sarah Rinland makes her debut with a poetic essay on conservation and restoration processes carried out in museums

Review: Those That, at a Distance, Resemble Another

Following its debut at the Locarno Film Festival, Argentine-British filmmaker Jessica Sarah Rinland’s first title, Those That, at a Distance, Resemble Another [+see also:
film profile
, has had its North American premiere in the Wavelengths section of the Toronto International Film Festival. Having earned itself a Special Mention in the new Moving Ahead competition of the Swiss festival, Rinland’s work is a concept essay on the importance of reproducing objects in the museum context.

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The documentary sees a range of experts (archaeologists, potters, biologists and other laboratory technicians) take part in the process of conserving and restoring a copy of a museum piece, an ivory elephant tusk in particular. The work embarked upon by these specialists is never explained to the viewer. The audience simply observes them as they carry out their actions, as if it were some kind of hypnotic ceremony: Rinland’s camera documents the museum’s activities through 16mm close-ups of the technicians’ hands as they perform their tasks with the greatest of delicacy.

In this succession of exquisite images where hands work on the artefact, we recognise those of the filmmaker (her nails are always painted), who also participates in these conservation activities. Her physical and verbal contributions are essential to the film given that, in one of these instances, we listen to her voice as she explains to her laboratory partners the argument of a book, which is also the essence of the film. In this philosophical argument, Rinland describes the copy – that is, the replica she’s handling – as a perfect and unalterable artefact; the original, by contrast, isn’t endowed with this same aura of perfection, given that it’s a victim of reality and time.

Those That, at a Distance, Resemble Another theorises on the role of the replica in museums and ennobles its use (which is unknown to many). As a poetic essay, it also takes us on a journey and helps us to understand the invisible web connecting museums around the world – San Paolo, Manaus, Rio de Janeiro, Bethlehem and London – as we follow the international exchange and movement of their pieces.

Those That, at a Distance, Resemble Another is produced by the Spanish outfit Filmika Galaika alongside Jessica Sarah Rinland herself.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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