The Ends of the Earth with Frauke Sandig and Eric Black

Filmmakers Frauke Sandig and Eric Black talk to SEI ahead of the February 13 screening of their critically acclaimed documentary, Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth.

Chepita at Day of the Dead. Image copyright Eric Black

Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth is a raw, honest and deeply moving insight into the beauty and power of Maya spirituality. Interwoven with ancestral dreams and memories, the film follows the daily lives and rituals of six young Maya from Guatemala and Chiapas as they stand up for their land, culture and community against the brutal threats of the modern world – civil war, unconstrained mining, genocide, drugs and the destruction of the Lacandon rainforest. Set amongst a landscape of great beauty and brutality, the deep wisdom, pragmatism and ecologically sophisticated worldview presented by the Mayan philosophy is a powerful voice against the ongoing violence of colonial legacies.

Received with critical acclaim all around the world, the film received an overwhelmingly positive response from the Latin American communities which it so poignantly represents. SEI is proud to present this film on the 13th of February alongside a live conversation between its directors Frauke Sandig and Eric Black, as well as Dr Tom Murray and SEI research affiliate Monica Gagliano. The screening will be followed by a symposium,The Law is in the Land’, to be held on Friday the 15th of February.

Here, SEI editor Liberty Lawson speaks to Frauke and Eric about their past collaborations, and what lies in their future.


SEI: How did you first begin collaborating?

Eric: We began like a train wreck — we fell in love. Then, as filmmakers needed something to further sustain and excite us intellectually and emotionally. As I set out to investigate and photograph Frauke’s home, Berlin, we started to discuss our different impressions and conceptions of the same city through different eyes, in particular, Berlin’s Wall or lack thereof. That thread led to the creation of our first film together, After the Fall.

This is something of a theme in your work, the pulling down of barriers – whether walls, limits on natural reproduction, capitalist mentalities. Why is it so important to look beyond the comforts of our own worldviews?

​Both of us, for different reasons, grew up as outsiders and consider that critical to the way we see the world. It is who we are. And documentaries have allowed us to further cultivate that perspective, bringing it into our films. Like the Zen concept of the “Beginner’s Mind”, to have the viewer see as they have never seen before. Conversely, we often feel at ease in cultures to which we are not members, beyond the comforts of our own world, most notably to date, the indigenous Maya, with whom we lived for a total of three years.

The continuity of time, space and scale is understood very differently in the Mayan worldview. Has making this film and spending so long in these cultures and landscapes influenced your own perspective of humanity, and the way you envision our collective future as a planet?

It is such a privilege to have had this experience. Their influence has continued to effect us enormously even now. We return to Mayan territory every year. The film we are shooting currently, also in Sydney, about “consciousness” is the sequel in the trilogy provoked by ideas and questions from our Mayan friends, as will our next film, The 29th Day, about the ends of the Earth. Stay tuned.

Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth will be screened at 5pm on Wednesday, 13th February at the Old Geology Lecture Theatre, University of Sydney. 

The one-day symposium ‘The Law is in the Land’ will be held on Friday, 15th February. 


For more details and registration, click here.