Lost and Found: A Once-Believer’s Trail

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A Brief Commentary of “The Desert Bride”
A Film by Cecilia Atán and Valeria Pivato

by John Bennison, Mountain Shadow Director

Follow him through the Land of Unlikeness;

You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures. …
… in the Kingdom of Anxiety
    You will come to a great city
And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.

                                   With apologies to W.H. Auden for the adaptation.

“Are you a believer?” a fellow traveller asks.

“No,” Teresa quietly replies.

“Then whoever heard of a seagull flying in the desert?” the other woman wonders out loud.

A bird has struck the windshield of a bus venturing across a barren stretch of land from somewhere to who knows where. The passengers are left to trudge to the nearest oasis on foot. Called a sanctuary, it looks more like a bazaar full of trinkets and nick-knacks.. But there small miracles can also presumably be found; such as finding a mate to marry, even if one is not being sought. So begins a journey of unique adventures in a land of unlikeness.

Like a caged bird herself, Teresa is a 54-year old domestic worker who has been set free; let go to fend for herself in unchartered territory, when her former employers can no longer afford her services. A routine life of daily chores is transported into a kingdom of anxiety.  As fate would have it, when a sudden windstorm seems to blow away her small bag with her little life inside, Teresa is left bewildered.


“Did you come to see the saint?” asks El Gringo, a travelling salesman who will lure, deceive and woo Teresa. “You and I,” says Gringo, “we’re just two stones in the road.”

Along the endless, parched stretch of desert highway are occasional shrines set up; where a bottle of water as a small offering  can be made. [See the Filmmaker’s description of the Correa legend, at right.]

At one point, when Gringo stops to make such an offering, Teresa asks him if the saint of such wilderness had ever answered his prayers. “Life has a way of sometimes changing your mind,” he muses. “Everyday I see people come to the Sanctuary to show their gratitude, their love, their pain. And the saint always gave the hope. So I slowly started to believe without knowing it. It helps to believe in something.”

The Desert Bride is a quiet little gem of a film about an ordinary little life. It’s an allegory, filled with metaphors. There’s the desert of nothingness, filled with mythic beliefs in miracles that – like the winds – are strong enough to blow and toss one where one never could have imagined, or undertaken on one’s own.

There is no wedding for this desert bride. But there is a union nonetheless of who Teresa once was, and who she becomes in the last scene in an act of self-empowerment. Walking down the desert highway alone with head held high, almost dancing for joy, the opening lyrics to a song provide the epilogue:

In this sky
The desert bride
I am lonely
I go walking
With my soul.
The horizon
Sings its voice
I am still dreaming
With my heart
I walk the road
I know the sun
And at night
I go with the moon
I fly alone
I am lonely
I wait alone
I am alone.
This is my destiny
Cluster of love
Sweet caress
That life changed
Sweet caress
That life changed
In this sky
The horizon
My destiny
My path

"En Este Cielo," written and sung by Leo Sujatovich