The Secret and the Sacred. Two Worlds at Los Alamos.

(Los Alamos. Und die Erben der Bombe.)
Germany, 2003, 45 min, English
Production: Denkmal-Film / Hessischer Rundfunk / arte
Latin American Premiere

Hidden in the mountains of Northern New Mexico lies the birthplace of the Atomic Age: Los Alamos, home of the "Manhattan Project". Here Robert J. Oppenheimer and his staff created the first atomic bomb, "Trinity", the scientific prototype to "Little Boy" and "Fat Man," the bombs which hastened the end of World War II by leveling Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Although the laboratory is today also a leading center of genetic research, it remains a place of secrecy, for its main mission is to maintain the existing nuclear arsenal - a task that hides behind the name, "Stockpile Stewardship". The secret meets the sacred upon the mesa of Los Alamos. The lab takes up forty-three square miles - indigenous land of the Tewa people from the pueblos Santa Clara and San Ildefonso. The local Indians are cut off from their traditional shrines of worship: their prayer sites are either fenced off or contaminated. One of the sacred places contains the petroglyph of Avanyu, the mythic serpent that is the guardian of the springs. The Avanyu petroglyph was created long before the first White man set foot on the continent. According to tribal wisdom, those who poison the water must face Avanyu's fiery revenge. The local ground water has been contaminated by decades of the laboratory's uncaring. Warnings from the pueblos' spiritual leaders to laboratory officials fell upon deaf ears. At the laboratory, formulas pull rank on myths.

Following discussion with the director, Munich 2013

Special Achievement Award

for its incisive capture of the spirit of two opposed but parallel worlds: the world of nuclear weaponsmakers and the world of the guardians of the Earth. These worlds overlap in northern New Mexico around Los Alamos, the birthplace of the Bomb. Sparks fly as Claus Biegert forges interviews and unearths images and archival footage.

The Secret and the Sacred  features Ed Grothus, a human bridge between the two worlds. Once a worker at the Lab, now owner of The Black Hole, an atomic junk shop, Grothus is the "fool on the hill" who dares call out for a legacy that will sustain rather than destroy the planet. From the indigenous realm comes the ancient teaching on elemental serpent Avanu, guardian of the springs and fiery avenger of those who poison its waters. Avanu is juxtaposed to a Los Alamos Director preaching the gospel of Deterrence to an auditorium full of warrior workers. The contrast between the two realms could not be starker, and by film's enend, the consequences could not be graver.

Bob del Tredici