February 2022 - BEHIND THE SCENES: What Travelers Are Saying About Jornada del Muerto


One of the goals we hope to accomplish when we attend the Sundance Film Festival is to spotlight our talent here in New Mexico. We often decide what films to watch when we arrive. After all the premieres and highlighted films, I watched the selections accepted this year. It wasn’t until the last day of the festival that I discovered a short film that showed New Mexico as the star, but not what I expected. The Land of Enchantment holds many secrets: some we celebrate and some we would like to forget. In the film short, What Travelers Are Saying About Jornada del Muerto (Journey of the Dead), Director Hope Tucker chose to tell the story of The Tularosa Basin, the site of the first detonation of an atomic bomb. I’ve lived in New Mexico since I was two years old and I’ve yet to visit some of the historic sites this state holds. Tucker wanted to explore why people turned a piece of land known for destruction into a tourist attraction.


Where did the inspiration for this film come from?

I was in Taos as part of an artist residency at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation for a different film and went to the Trinity Site as part of my research. In figuring out how to get there, I discovered many people who had been before shared their experiences and interpretations of what it means to travel the Jornada del Muerto and what it means to visit Trinity. Many writers were wrestling with the complexity of history and its place in it.

What was your goal with this documentary?

A first-person account can be powerful and deserves attention. The words of the writers, and the signs we see at the beginning and end of the film, introduce the audience to just some of the layers of nuclear colonialism that many New Mexicans live with every day.

I hope New Mexico will be included in RECA.


What is the one thing you learned that you didn't expect?

Creating this project during COVID reinforced that part of what it means to be human comes through dialogue and collective experiences.


How did it feel to be selected by Sundance?

Sundance realizing artistic and social value in short, unconventional, documentary forms is very encouraging.