Directed by Joshua Bonnetta & J.P. Sniadecki • Documentary • 2017 • 94 minutes
An immersive and enthralling journey through the Sonoran Desert on the U.S.-Mexico border, EL MAR LA MAR weaves together harrowing oral histories from the area with hand-processed 16mm images of flora, fauna and items left behind by travelers. Subjects speak of intense, mythic experiences in the desert: A man tells of a fifteen-foot-tall monster said to haunt the region, while a border patrolman spins a similarly bizarre tale of man versus beast. A sonically rich soundtrack adds to the eerie atmosphere as the call of birds and other nocturnal noises invisibly populate the austere landscape. Emerging from the ethos of Harvard's Sensory Ethnography Lab, Bonnetta and Sniadecki masterfully weave together sublime 16mm shots of nature and weather phenomena, animals, people and the tracks they leave behind with a polyphonic soundtrack, creating a cinematographic exploration of the desert habitat, a multi-faceted panorama of a highly politicised stretch of land, a film poem that conjures up the ocean. Together, they’ve created an experience of the border region like nothing you’ve seen, heard or felt before.