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Young Cinema Competition 2014
Desert Haze Sofie Benoot

A visually powerful epic about the conquest of the American West. The desert is alive – eccentrics, ghost towns, nuclear tests, cowboys and Indians: a documentary western.

Desert Haze

Documentary Film
109 minutes

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Frederik Nicolai, Eric Goossens, Frank van den Engel
Sofie Benoot
Nico Leunen
Sofie Benoot
Kwinten Van Laethem, Michel Schöpping
The conquest of the unknown is the core of the American origin myth. What better place than the Midwestern desert to question it? In a place where there seems to be nothing but sand and stones, Sofie Benoot finds many and varied traces of humans: abandoned mines, sacred mountains, prehistoric drawings, empty towns still waiting for the run of residents, melted plane parts, secret military zones and even remains of World War II internment camps and nuclear waste warning signs. Some traces, like those of uranium mining or nuclear tests, are invisible. Like a branch of tumbleweed Benoot covers hundreds of kilometres. She meets sad Indians, Country music-yodelling Japanese, astronauts practicing for the settlement of Mars and Mormons in costume and with horses and carts (and a portable chemical toilet, too) following the pioneers’ trail. The camera captures immense panoramas of expanse and emptiness and then examines the structures of bizarre stone, soil and cloud formations in the next moment.
Benoot uncovers the myth layer by layer. The archaeology of the American Dream becomes a deep look into the abysses of civilisation; the history of the conquest of the West turns out to be a history of suppression. As merciless as the desert itself. Death rides a horse – it’s nothing if not a western.
Grit Lemke