Atl Tlachinolli

Alexander Hick

Searching for the unique Axolotl, a endemic salamander that used to live in the former lake of Mexico, Atl Tlachinolli is an essayistic inquiry into survival and adaptation, the film casts its gaze on that which remains.

“In order to escape being sacrificed, the God Xólotl transforms himself into a salamander, fleeing from what he once was. His death was necessary in order to bring forth a new era.”

So relates the voice of a woman in the essay film Atl Tlachinolli (Scorched water), which tells of the search for the Axolotl, a salamander that lives in the lakes surrounding Mexico City. The Axolotl- an Aztec word for “water monster”- lives its entire life in the water, refusing to undergo metamorphosis and conform to terrestrial life. The animal was seen for the last time in its natural habitat in 2014. A fishermen who survives on the outskirts of the megalopolis tells of its disappearance. Cognizant of the mythological immortality that surrounds the strange creature, he expresses the desire to transform into one himself.

Taking up this mythology of transformation from god to animal as a metaphor for Mexico City itself, the director accompanies a corrupt policeman and gang member in the sprawling suburbs of the megalopolis. He examines the struggle for survival in what was the former lake of Mexico but is today the habitat of 23 million people. As an essayistic inquiry into survival and adaptation, the film casts its gaze on that which remains

You don’t have to be a zoologist to understand Alexander Hick’s fascination with an animal singularly adapted to the formation of myths. The axolotl, a caudate, refuses to metamorphose. It will not go ashore but prefers to remain in the water as a larva and still manages to breed and regrow limbs. Even its heart and brain regenerate! The only problem is that its habitat has vanished. An 8-million metropolis is now rising where there used to be water: Mexico City. Alexander Hick asks how humans treat the conquered paradise through insistent images full of cultural historical, religious and mythological references. In fragmented parallel episodes he sketches the inhabitants of this megacity and their struggle for survival. Violence and corruption have hollowed out everything: the family, the institutions, the state. The film does not give us any faith in their self-“regeneration”. On the contrary. So the axolotl, worshipped by the Aztecs, is the last witness of an oppressed and abused landscape and an age when humans were still capable of building advanced civilisations. An intelligent – in the noblest sense of the word – essay film, and the bold portrait of a city. (Cornelia Klauß)





Crew & Production

Director and Director of Photography: Alexander Hick

Editing: Julian Sarmiento

Voice Over: Matthias Hirth and Ileana Villareal

Music: Juan Pablo Villa

Producer: Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica, A.C. and University for Television and Films Munich

Executive Producer: Flipping the Coin Films





Duration: 75 min

Shooting format: Super 16mm

Endformat: DCP

Aspect Ratio: 1:1,85

Sound 5.1. Dolby Surround




Festival participation

2015, Visions dú Réel, Switzerland – Regard neuf

2015, Dok Leipzig, Germany – German Competition

2015, Festival internacional de cine Morelia, México – Cine sin fronteras

2015, Les Écrans Documentaires, France – Competition

2015, Signes de nuit, France – Cinema in Transgression, Main Award

2016, Riviera Maya Film Festival, Mexico – Mexican Competition

2016, Encuentros del otro cine, Ecuador – Program

2016, Festival de cine Oaxaca, Mexico – Program

2016, Signes de nuit, Portugal – Cinema in Transgression, Special Mention Jury





Flipping the coin Films

Einzelunternehmen Alexander Hick

Hugo- Kauffmannstr. 14

83209, Prien