Film - Documentary | March 20 | 7 p.m. | Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
A timely and altogether mesmerizing portrait of place filmed in 16mm, Joshua Bonnetta and J. P. Sniadeckis lyrical documentary is best described as being from, rather than about, the Sonoran desert. The USMexico border looms as an unspoken presence, the better to train our attention on the landscapes primordial drama: hillsides burning through the night, bats flooding a cave, and a borderless skyand deadly lack of shadein all directions. The enveloping soundtrack is itself an epic poem of wind, gunshots, helicopters, and radio signals. Nestled into this sensory detail are firsthand accounts of the borderland and its crossings. Crucially, the speakers are not named, credentialed, or even pictured; periodically the image goes black, and we find ourselves listening to their stories as if around the campfire. Haunted by things left unseen and people left behind, El Mar La Mar gives every impression of walking hallowed ground even as it recognizes its own complex kinship to the activists, border agents, and self-appointed patrollers following the tracks of migrants. Refreshingly, though, Bonnetta and Sniadeckis patient filmmaking suggests that we reserve judgments until we know something of the terrain.