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Ben Rivers: Two Years at Sea

Ben Rivers: Two Years at Sea

Two Years at Sea, by Ben Rivers (courtesy of Lux)

At the Downtown Independent, 251 S. Main Street Los Angeles, CA 90012


Ben Rivers in person.  Los Angeles premiere!

35mm print flown in from England.

Filmforum is delighted to host Ben Rivers again after a number of years with, finally, the Los Angeles premiere of his highly lauded feature film Two Years at Sea, the heightened portrait of the Scottish loner Jake Williams, previously the subject of Rivers’s short film “This is My Land.” Two Years at Sea was the winner of the FIPRESCI Prize (Critics' Week and Horizons sections), Venice Film Festival 2011.

“Jake Williams barely speaks a word in Two Years at Sea, but he does whistle. In the shower, and while making breakfast, his melodies veer from “Over the Rainbow” to unrecognizable groups of notes—just one of the details that bring life to this film about human isolation. Williams, an old man with an unruly, Tolstoyan beard and long, white hair, lives alone in the middle of a Scottish forest, in a strange conglomeration of a rustic cabin with a larger, run-down chalet. In the yard there's a broken down trailer, and random objects and junk pile up in every room, drawer, and nook that can fit them. Filmed in 16mm, Two Years at Sea follows Williams's daily life through the turn of the seasons. With no commentary on his behavior besides the occasional background score, the stillness and silence with which we look upon Williams ranges from curious to unnerving to fascinating.” -- Tomas Hachard, Slant Magazine,

“Rivers' work could perhaps be seen as the flipside to literature: when you read a book, you're given a plot and you conjure the images in your imagination; with a film such as Two Years At Sea, it's the other way round. Its carefully composed images capture a poetic beauty that's rich with meaning and mystery, while the blotches and scratches and flares of the film itself add another layer of activity. There's always something happening.”  --“Two Years At Sea: Little Happens, Nothing is Explained”, Steve Rose, The Guardian,

For more event information:, or 323-377-7238         

Tickets: $10 general, $6 students/seniors; free for Filmforum members.  Available by credit card in advance from Brown Paper Tickets at or at the door.

Ben Rivers has an additional different screening at REDCAT on Monday December 7 at 8:30 pm.

Ben Rivers studied Fine Art at Falmouth School of Art, initially in sculpture before moving into photography and super8 film. After his degree he taught himself 16mm filmmaking and hand-processing. His practice as a filmmaker treads a line between documentary and fiction. Often following and filming people who have in some way separated themselves from society, the raw film footage provides Rivers with a starting point for creating oblique narratives imagining alternative existences in marginal worlds.

He is the recipient of numerous prizes including: FIPRESCI International Critics Prize, 68th Venice Film Festival for his first feature film Two Years At Sea; the Baloise Art Prize, Art Basel 42, 2011; shortlisted for the Jarman Award 2010/2012; Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Artists, 2010.

This program is supported by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles; Bloomberg Philanthropies; and the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts. Additional support generously provided by American Cinematheque. We also depend on our members, ticket buyers, and individual donors.

Two Years At Sea 3

Two Years at Sea, by Ben Rivers

Two Years at Sea

(2011, 16mm anamorphic , b/w, blown-up to 35mm, 88 min.)

A man called Jake lives in the middle of the forest. He goes for walks in whatever the weather, and takes naps in the misty fields and woods. He builds a raft to spend time sitting in a loch. Drives a beat-up jeep to pick up wood supplies. He is seen in all seasons, surviving frugally, passing the time with strange projects, living the radical dream he had as a younger man, a dream he spent two years working at sea to realize.