What Travelers Are Saying About Jornada del Muerto

Residents of and visitors to the Tularosa Basin of New Mexico, site of the first detonation of an atomic bomb, contribute to the production of public memory as they offer logistical advice, philosophical reckonings, and plaintive cries about making "the journey of the dead." Made in remembrance of the 75th anniversary of the detonation of nuclear weapons in Japan and the US and the 340th anniversary of the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. Made in resistance to nuclear colonialism.

Our Take – Small Axe Radical Short Film Reviews by Cole Diment 

Hope Tucker’s What Travelers are Saying about Jornada del Muerto introduces to us a small portion of the US’ long history of nuclear weapons testing and the impact upon its citizens. The film is simple in structure and idea yet communicates volumes; Tucker manages to execute the project with a certain weight that brings into relief historical time, the presence of the past, as well as real time immersion within the Trinity testing site. This in itself poses the radical proposition of a time conundrum: if the nuclear past is still here, why and how may we still call it the past? 

Principally, Tucker’s film partakes in anti-nuclear politics. Tucker foregrounds the written word of protesters, featured in the films beginning, holding signs and protesting the US government’s historical and present crimes. Their wish is to be included in the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act due to the high levels of cancer and autoimmune diseases amongst those living near the Trinity site. The powerful images of a placard plea at the end, made even more shocking in its delivery in desolate silence, strikes home the anti-nuclear message. 

What’s more, Tucker creates a radical environment through which to absorb the film’s message. The formal qualities of the film create a position in which we may absorb the affective qualities of the Trinity site. Tucker achieves this chiefly through three qualities: no VoiceOver, no music, and no clearcut object for our eyes to be distracted by. In this way, we are placed into a pure optical and sound situation that allows are mind’s motor-system to relax and become receptive to the film’s message. What’s more, emerging from the silence of the film are a collage of voices, the subtitles representing the ideas and words of the tourists Tucker heard on site. The abdication of Tucker’s authorial voice allows for the thoughts and feelings of regular Americans to come through. A truly democratic film form. 

What Travelers are Saying about Jornada del Muerto combines political critique with collective participation in the effort to project the voices of those made ill by continued radioactivity. Given the film’s quietude, its soft quality, we too are made aware of the message.

Hope has asked that we link you to three resources surrounding nuclear power in the US:

  /  2022
Hope Tucker
13:45 mins
Original Language