AMONG THE PALMS THE BOMB, or: Looking for reflections in the toxic field of plenty

The Salton Sea in southern California is a unique ecosystem. In just four years, the water level has fallen by a good half a meter, and with a maximum depth of ten meters you can calculate when it is expected to dry out. And that’s just the global aspect, which has to do with global warming and changes in the local climate. The Salton Sea is also special because the United States tested numerous atomic bombs here in the final phases of World War II and the Cold War – initially in preparation for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, later as training for missions that fortunately never took place. In AMONG THE PALMS THE BOMB, Lukas Marxt and Vanja Smiljanić are particularly interested in this aspect of regional history. The film begins in Utah, where the planes took off and then found their destination in the supposedly secluded area around the Salton Sea. There is a museum in Wendover where you can also see models of “Fat Man” and “Little Boy”, the only two atomic bombs ever used in war, along with a loading pit where the planes were loaded, to which Marxt dedicated a shorter film in 2019. For many years he has been dealing with the situation in southern California, which can be described as extreme in many respects. Intensive agriculture, which relies radically on monocultures, has cast a spell over everything there. Marxt and Smiljanić find out that an alliance has been formed against this backdrop: illegal harvest workers from Latin America seek refuge in Native American reservations. AMONG THE PALMS THE BOMB has local experts explain the landscape and history, and the director is looking for dissenting voices, especially among the tribe of the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians, who were victims of genocide in the 19th century. Their survivors now recall how many plants that had healing powers and were part of a life with nature once grew around the salty water of the Salton Sea. Now the area belongs to the salt bushes, and beneath the surface ticks the uranium of a Cold War that is about to return. Scary times, someone says. (Bert Rebhandl)

(Translation by John Wojtowicz)

Orig. Title
AMONG THE PALMS THE BOMB, or: Looking for reflections in the toxic field of plenty
Austria, Germany
85 min
Orig. Language
Lukas Marxt, Vanja Smiljanić
Lukas Marxt
Lukas Marxt, Vanja Smiljanić
Sound Design
Marcus Zilz
Vanja Smiljanić
Marcus Zilz
Montage Consultant
Daniela Kinateder
s u n³b°u°r°s t FILM
Executive Producer
Lukas Marxt, Vanja Smiljanić
Supported by
BMKOES, Cine Art Steiermark, Sonic Acts
Creative Consultant
Carson Davis Brown
Available Formats
DCP 2K (Distribution Copy)
Aspect Ratio
Frame Rate
25 fps
Color Format