Still from afar
In ‘Still from afar’, Eva van Tongeren translates a months-long correspondence between the convicted and incarcerated paedophile Thomas and herself into an audio-visual monologue. The correspondence forces them to adjust their thoughts to the rhythm of each other’s letters. His imagination takes her to deserts where westerns are recorded, along the largest trees in the world, to the busy streets of Los Angeles. She sends him fragments of memories that will never be his.
Eva and Thomas sign up for a project where detainees and non-detainees write letters to each other. They are partnered up with each other because of their common interest in film. Thomas’ first letter is decisive for the rest of their contact. He wants her to know why he has been detained from the start. He is a convicted pedophile. He has experienced people breaking all contact with him when he tells them honestly about his crime and his feelings for young girls. Despite these rejections, he continues to write, searching for contact with someone outside the prison.
His interest in her work as a film maker and her interest in his world plant a seed for ‘Still from afar’. Due to the distance and time that are inherent to the exchange of letters, a safe environment is created within which openness has a chance: they have the time to think. They are forced to adjust their thoughts to the rhythm of each other’s letters.
In ‘Still from afar’, Eva van Tongeren translates a months-long dialogue between Thomas and herself into an audiovisual monologue. “We write about a mutual imagination, about expectations and dreams and about my unchanging incomprehension of his crime. The small sensitive details that he describes, like the sound of the wardens’ keys or the smell of people who have just come from outside, make me curious about his thoughts. We are both looking for a connection.
Thomas asks me to photograph the things he misses, so he can drift away for a while, so he can remove himself, get away from himself for a moment. Besides the requested photographs of a beach, the sea and tropical fish in an aquarium, I send him images of things I I think are beautiful, that move me. His imagination takes me to deserts where westerns are recorded, to the largest trees in the world, to the busy streets of Los Angeles. I send him fragments of memories that will never be his.”