International Selection

The Shadow of the Desert (or Paradise Lost)

La Sombra del desierto (o el paraíso perdido)

Juan Manuel Sepúlveda


While an exodus of migrants waits to cross the deadly Altar Desert towards the US, the last Natives of the desert survive a diaspora that has them on the verge of vanishing.

The Sonoran desert, situated between Mexico and the United States, is the silent witness that welcomes the fate of two populations. First, there are the migrants, gathered there on their journey from countries further south. They have left everything behind in an attempt to enter the United States, waiting patiently on its doorstep. As they themselves say, they are better here in this desert where they have been waiting, sometimes for months. And behind them? Nothing remains, so it will be here, beyond, or nowhere. The crossing was gruelling: hanging onto trains, braving controls, escaping banditry. They are now acclimatising to this dry and dangerous environment, the last step, waiting for better days. Further away, this arid region is inhabited by the Tohono O’odham, a desert people, living along a border (their territory stretches from Arizona in the United States to Sonora in Mexico) whose existence has thus far been immaterial but may now become much too palpable: the wall that Trump promised to build separating the United States from Mexico threatens to break up their community. The two movements followed by the filmmaker are contrary: on one hand, a people on home ground, determined to keep their land and culture and, on the other, people in exile eager to leave the place as soon as possible. Yet, at the same time, together, without mixing, among the same dunes under the desert winds, they are the rejected, those who count for nothing, driven from the world such as it advances. In the hostile or tamed desert, this lost paradise, they are all trying to elude their tragic fate – and, from the heights, they enjoy the cool of the evening and its colours, ever hopeful.

Clémence Arrivé

PRINT SOURCE: Fragua Cine,

  • A graduate of the National Autonomous University of Mexico Film School and a MFA of the Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Juan Manuel Sepúlveda has being directing and producing films since 2006. His work is a critical and unconventional exploration of the documentary form and at the same time he has developed a practice as a Professor exploring the relations between the aesthetical and the political.

  • PRODUCTION : Juan Manuel Sepúlveda Martínez, Viana González Delgado
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