A God´s Shadow

Rarely does a film succeed in leaving its viewers so satisfied and yet puzzled. La sombra de un dios by Bernhard Hetzenauer belongs to this category of work. The director uses calm black and white shots to develop the impression of what seems to be a horrifying story. In a quiet voice, a member of the Wirraritari/Huichol tribe of Mexico by the name of Chon calmly tells a story about taking peyote with his cousin Faustino who suddenly is convinced he is a god. An audio space gleaned from local atmospheres and the hypnotizing voice of the narrator overlays the director´s finely composed visual montage constellated by hilly landscapes rendered in shades of gray that intercut with the mute face of the narrator. But what the latter reports stands in stark contrast to the quiet visual language of the film. The god Faustino, as he is also consistently referred to by Chon, takes control of a group of 40 people after his divine awakening, and subsequently induces a bloodbath amongst them. The narrator, whose closest relatives fall prey to this terror, succeeds in fleeing to the neighboring village. There the local police jump into action and ultimately kill the god.

"You leap beyond time on peyote," as Antonin Artaud wrote in 1936, upon journeying to the Tarahumaras in Mexico. The director conveys this breakthrough to something beyond the laws of the space-time continuum through the use of a discrepancy between a narration that does not explain the incidents, and the coherent composition of image and sound. The film´s rupture between the beauty of the images and the horror of the events narrated touches on a sense of the sublime. In regard to the sublime, Longinus says, "when it breaks out of the right place, all the material is divided like a sudden convulsive bolt of lightning." (Boris Manner)

Translation: Eve Heller

Chon, a member of the Native Mexican Wirrárika community, tells the story of his cousin Faustino, son of the shaman of an indigenous settlement in the mountains of Nayarit called La Mora. In the 1980s Faustino had proclaimed himself to be god and the community´s spiritual leader, which then had been accepted by his father and the inhabitants. Together with an armed group he menaced and terrorized other neighboring villages. When Chon witnessed his cousin kill various members of their own community, he escaped La Mora and reported the incidents to the police of the larger village nearby, Santa María del Oro. (production note)

Orig. Title
La sombra de un dios
Mexico, Austria, Germany
20 min
Orig. Language
Bernhard Hetzenauer
Bernhard Hetzenauer
Bernhard Hetzenauer
Marco Antonio Lujan
Bernhard Hetzenauer
Aarón Oliveros Soria, Alan Rodríguez Cervantes
Sound Design
Atom studio, Mexico, Roberto Félix Sánchez
Manuel Benítez Espinoza
Editing Coach
Clementina Mantellini
Colour Correction
Antonio R. De Nicolás
Anita Ramos Ahumada, Ascención Carrillo Gonzalez, Maria Anita Conchas Medina
Filmatelier 5, Hetzenauer & Mijatovic (AT), Hetzenauer & Mijatovic (DE)
Executive Producer
Bernhard Hetzenauer, Marko Mijatovic, Antoniu Valentin Moldovan
Supported by
Land Tirol, Centro Nacional de las Artes Mexico City, BmeiA, Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores Mexico, PACMYC/CONACULTA, Werkleitz, Goethe Institute Mexico, Land Oberösterreich, FONCA
Available Formats
Digital File (prores, h264) (Distribution Copy)
Blu-ray (Distribution Copy)
DCP 2K flat (Distribution Copy)
Aspect Ratio
Sound Format
Frame Rate
25 fps
Color Format
Festivals (Selection)
Viennale - Vienna Int. Film Festival
Mexico City - Shorts Mexico (Mejor Cortometraje Mexicano Documental /Best Mexican Short Documentary)
Saarbrücken - Filmfestival Max Ophüls Preis
Graz - Diagonale, Festival des österreichischen Films
Mexico - FICUNAM Film Festival
Linz - Crossing Europe Film Festival (Local Artists Innovative Film Award)
Hamburg - Dokumentarfilmwoche
Trento - Film Festival
Wien - VIS Vienna Shorts
Sheffield - Int. Documentary Film Festival
Guanajuato - Festival internacional de Cine
Quito - EDOC Festival Internacional de Cine Documental Encuentros del Otro Cine
Lima - TransCinema Festival Internacional de Cine
St.Petersburg - Message of Man Festival
Buenos Aires – FIDBA International Documentary Film Festival
Wien - zeitimpuls (shortfilm main award)
Szczecin - European Film Festival
St. Luís Potosí (MX) - Festival Int de Cine (Best Short Documentary)
Pančevo (SRB) - Film Festival
Mexico - DocMX Festival Internacional de Cine Documental (Fragmentos: Jury Award)
Belgrade - BelDocs Int Documentary Film Festival
Ann Arbor - Film Festival
Montevideo - Festival Cinematográfico Internacional del Uruquay
Pachuca/Hidalgo (MX) - FINI Festival Internacional de la Imagen (First Place Professional Documentary)
Bad Aibling - Nonfiktionale