Sentinels of Silence: Honoring the Academy Award-Winning short film 50 years later

July 25, 2024
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Sentinels of Silence: Honoring the Academy Award-Winning short film 50 years later

Sentinels of Silence: Honoring the Academy Award-Winning short film 50 years later

Sentinels of Silence: Honoring a timeless short film that won an Academy Award half a century ago. Discover the powerful message of this cinematic masterpiece and its significance today.
Sentinels of Silence: Honoring the Academy Award-Winning short film 50 years later

In commemoration of the short documentary “Sentinels of Silence,” produced by Manuel Arango and written and directed by Robert Amram in 1971, aerial photography expert Francisco Laresgoiti revisited the locations of the ancient sites from above, using the latest technology in drones, optics, and image quality.

“Sentinels of Silence” won two Academy Awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1972: one for Best Short Film and the other for Best Documentary Short. The film was narrated by Orson Welles and Ricardo Montalbán for its English and Spanish versions, respectively. The daring of this cinematographic work was to film at seven archaeological sites in Mexico from above, using the emerging technology of 1970, as the shots were taken from a helicopter, which allowed for aerial images of Teotihuacan, Monte Albán, Mitla, Tulum, Palenque, Chichén Itzá, and Uxmal, never seen before.

Laresgoiti recalls watching the film as a child and the great impact it had on him. It was this inspiration that led to the creation of “Sanctuaries of the Infinite,” produced by Miguel Bonilla Schnaas as a tribute.

Sentinels of Silence: Honoring the Academy Award-Winning short film 50 years later

This is an original production of Corriente Alterna, whose creation was supported by the federal Secretary of Culture, through the co-production of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), thanks to the management of the general director, Diego Prieto Hernández, and the National Coordination of Diffusion; Arte 7 Productions, La Casa de Cine, and Xzagon Media.

The production of this documentary piece took place in 2021, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which represented a logistical challenge but also the opportunity to photograph eight archaeological sites without people: Tulum in Quintana Roo, Chichén Itzá and Uxmal in Yucatán, Palenque in Chiapas, Calakmul in Campeche, Teotihuacan in the State of Mexico, Monte Albán in Oaxaca, and Paquimé in Chihuahua.

Sentinels of Silence: Honoring the Academy Award-Winning short film 50 years later

Beyond highlighting the natural elements and architectural design of each site, the director’s narrative challenge was to achieve a new aerial perspective that could bring the viewer closer to the detail impossible to observe from ground level. The possibilities of flight and approach are captured in this film, as well as the technological advancements since Arango and Amram’s work in these same places.

To complete a work that evokes soundscapes, the music included pieces by Jorge Reyes, and to illustrate and explain the landscapes in a poetic manner, texts from historian and researcher Antonio Saborit García Peña were included, narrated by singer and composer Lila Downs.

Sentinels of Silence: Honoring the Academy Award-Winning short film 50 years later

Regarding “Sanctuaries of the Infinite,” director Francisco Laresgoiti notes, “We are at an ideal moment to revisit our pre-Hispanic sanctuaries; technology and the beauty of our Mexico are combined in this unique and historic piece. It’s a source of pride for Mexico, for cinema, and for the world.”

“We want this cinematographic piece to invite a broad audience, especially new generations, to learn about and reflect on the greatness of the knowledge and heritage that pre-Hispanic cultures have given us. To understand that history is a living matter and that it evolves alongside the tools that allow us to rescue it,” concludes producer Miguel Bonilla Schnaas.

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