This essay discusses the experimental nonfiction film El Mar La Mar (Joshua Bonnetta and J.P. Sniadecki, 2017), focusing on the migrant crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. El Mar La Mar is one of several recent films that use unconventional textual strategies to approach the subject of migration. Eschewing exposition altogether, it draws attention to the Sonoran Desert, a vast territory that in the last twenty-five years has become a deadly route for migrants trying to cross the border. Unlike what has often been argued about the film, though, El Mar La Mar does not produce an immersive viewing experience. Nor does it simply rely on observational strategies. Instead, it creates an uneasy sense of place out of unexpected juxtapositions of sound and image. Drawing on human geography and sound studies in documentary, this essay looks at how the film's textual strategies align place and politics in order to evoke the migrant crisis.
On Uncertain Ground: Place and Migration in El Mar La Mar
Vinicius Navarro is assistant professor of Film and Media Studies at Emerson College. He is the co-editor of New Documentaries in Latin America (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) and co-author of Crafting Truth: Documentary Form and Meaning (Rutgers University Press, 2011). His work has appeared in Cinema Journal, Studies in Spanish and Latin American Cinemas, and Rethinking History: The Journal of Theory and Practice. Navarro currently serves on the advisory boards of the journals Contracampo and Film Studies.
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Vinicius Navarro; On Uncertain Ground: Place and Migration in El Mar La Mar. Film Quarterly 1 June 2020; 73 (4): 34–40. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2020.73.4.34
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