Ara Osterweil on Malena Szlam’s ALTIPLANO, 2018
COMPRISING NEARLY seven hundred miles of sand and felsic lava trapped in the twin rain shadows of the Andes and the Chilean Coast Range, the Atacama Desert is one of the driest places on earth. It is also one of the most surreal. Within the larger geography of the Andean Altiplano—a massive plateau that reaches elevations of thirteen thousand feet—volcanic craters, salt flats, and lakes the color of blood stretch as far as the eye can see. It is no wonder that cinematographers and NASA scientists alike have used the region as a proxy for Mars.
In her 2018 film ALTIPLANO, the Chilean-born, Montreal-based filmmaker Malena Szlam reframes this alien topography as a palimpsest of terrestrial bodies, ruptured and wounded in the Anthropocene. Shot on lands historically inhabited by the Atacameño, Aymara, and Calchaquí-Diaguita tribes in northern Chile and northwest Argentina...— Ara Osterweil