El Mar La Mar. 2017. USA. Directed by Joshua Bonnetta and J.P. Sniadecki. © The Cinema Guild

What is seen tells the stories of what is unseen. Filmed over two years in the treacherous Sonoran Desert near the US-Mexico border, El Mar La Mar enlightens the current debates on border security and immigration, but in unexpected ways.

Grainy 16mm-turned-digital images of the endless horizon, sun-scorched land, and bare sky introduce a forbidding terrain. Shots of empty water bottles, pocket-sized religious artifacts, and broken shoes bear witness to the hardship thousands have endured, while voiceovers recount tales of desperation, sightings of death, and encounters with mysterious creatures. Intricate sonic elements bring the desert to life, but not without eliciting fear. Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab alumnus J. P. Sniadecki and multimedia artist Joshua Bonnetta take a truly experimental approach to documentary in this meditative, complex work of filmic poetry.

Organized by La Frances Hui, Associate Curator, Department of Film.

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