In this visual essay, Ana Costa Ribeiro uses personal archives to delve into the adventurous, relatively short life of her grandfather Joaquim da Costa Ribeiro, a pioneer in experimental physics in Brazil in the middle of the last century. He was the discoverer of the thermodielectric effect: “something to do with lightning,” as it was explained in a child’s terms to his granddaughter.
Thermodielectric comprises both public and personal archive material—the distinction between the two is not always clear, and this creates a dreamy and poetic atmosphere. The beauty, experimentation and curiosity inherent in physics become metaphors for relationships in general.
The film effortlessly becomes an investigation into the relationship between the maker’s grandfather and her father, one of his nine children. This is ultimately a story about love and loss, and understanding what that means. The strength of the film lies in its reflections, which make countless connections and challenges the viewer to think beyond the literal.