• El Mar La Mar

El Mar La Mar

a film by Joshua Bonnetta & J.P. Sniadecki
2017, 95 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.


"An unsettlingly topical portrait of the American southwest... El Mar La Mar plays more like a horror film than an exercise in journalistic nonfiction."
- Jordan Cronk, Sight & Sound

"One of the top 10 films of 2017...cinema and landscape come together as sites of inscription marked by an encounter between the human and nonhuman."
-Erika Balsam, ArtForum

"Bonnetta and Sniadecki’s film stands out because it allows one of the most politicized terrains in the world to speak for itself."
-Philip Oltermann, The Guardian

Press Materials

High-Res Stills, Poster and Press Kit

Where to watch

Buy at CG store
Buy at CG store

Buy at CG store


Apr 5: Now-Instant! - Los Angeles, CA
Apr 23: USC, School of Cinematic Arts - Los Angeles, CA

Festivals & Awards

Official Selection – Berlin International Film Festival, 2017
Official Selection – San Francisco International Film Festival, 2017
Official Selection – New York Film Festival, 2017
Official Selection – BFI London Film Festival, 2017
Official Selection – Vienna International Film Festival, 2017
Official Selection – Chicago International Film Festival, 2017
Official Selection – AFI FEST, 2017
Official Selection – International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, 2017
Winner – Caligari Film Award, Berlin International Film Festival
Winner – Best Film, Dokufest Kosovo
Winner – Best Film, Curitiba International Film Festival
Winner – Universities Prize, IndieLisboa


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