When you think of all the things we take for granted in our everyday lives, sight has to be right at the top of the list. There can’t be many experiences more frightening than the prospect of losing your sight but this is exactly the scenario the subject of Ruth Grimberg’s 13-minute documentary Across Still Water finds himself in.
Following 32-year-old John as he deals with the degeneration of his sight from the incurable condition Retinitis Pigmentosa, Across Still Water is a restrained and unobtrusive portrait of a man dealing with this life-changing situation with unwavering bravery. Now facing the prospect of losing his sight completely, John’s friends and family are trying to get him to take the steps necessary to prepare for the next stage of his life.
“I spent a lot of time with John and his mother and girlfriend talking about what story we were trying to tell”, Grimberg reveals. “John and his mother were very open and articulate and I really wanted to convey the complexities they revealed about how he was trying to come to terms with losing his sight and his determination to hold on to as much of his life with the help of his friends. They are also very private but they wanted to share his story specifically because they want to raise awareness of his condition”.
Shot largely at night, as John goes fishing with his young friend Ben, Across Still Water is a gentle film featuring some understated production that (rightly) puts the focus on the film’s subject and his illness. The contrast between the footage shot in the day, with those shot at night, is an effective device for highlighting the journey John is making into his own darkness and the recurring moments of stillness and quiet in the short allow plenty of time for personal reflection.
Since making Across Still Water, Ruth has gone on to create another short with Creative England and Film London called Some Will Forget. Last year she also created short film Learning to Swim as part of the Listen to Britain 2017 programme which aims to present exciting visions of the UK today from emerging directors.