El mar la mar (2018)

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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, J.P. Sniadecki's attentive documentary approach mixes perfectly with Joshua Bonnetta's meditations on the materiality of film. Together, they've created an experience of the border region like nothing you've seen, heard or felt before.

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Critic Reviews for El mar la mar

All Critics (10) | Top Critics (2)

The result is simultaneously elusive and concrete: abstract cinema that packs a punch.

Feb 22, 2018 | Full Review…

El Mar La Mar is the rare film to subordinate its form to the landscape it's set in. To watch it attentively is to surrender, for ninety minutes, to the slow-motion pace of Sonoran life.

Feb 21, 2018 | Full Review…

Long stretches of quiet help section off the film's eerie chapters. Here, El mar la mar leaves the viewer to their own thoughts, much in the way migrants might as they journey through "the terrifying silence" of the desert.

Oct 4, 2018 | Full Review…

A timely artwork that captures that desperate life and death pilgrimage across the Sonoran Desert like no other.

Aug 6, 2018 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

It's the use of sound, rather than image, that gives the film an extra dimension.

Aug 6, 2018 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

The film's narcotic strangeness forces you to look again at a familiar headline story, treated unsensationally and sensitively - though at a patience-testing slow pace.

Aug 2, 2018 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

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