El Mar La Mar, Dir. Joshua Bonnetta and J.P. Sniadecki, USA, 2017, 95 mins
El Mar La Mar sits between experimental anthropological essay and imagistic film poem. The 16mm footage deliberately overwhelms with open space, massive skies and landscapes shimmering in deathly heat. The meticulous sound design focuses on desert winds and the nocturnal sounds of venomous insects, deadly snakes and predatory mountain lions. At times, migrants’ and residents’ voiceover emerges from a completely black screen, telling of getting lost, discovering a body or taking in a shivering migrant. Other voices chillingly describe the desert in dark, psychedelic terms or invoke mythical monsters. The desert’s distortion of reality can be fatal; migrants often lose their way and wander in circles until they are picked up by border patrols or die. Captured on screen, El Mar La Mar’s building dread attempts to drive home the horror of a five-day desert crossing undertaken on foot.