Thinking like a Mountain

Alexander Hick

Thinking Like a Mountain is a documentary film that narrates the present-
day struggle of the Arhuaco, an isolated indigenous mountain community
in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada whose traditional way of life has
been threatened by the armed conflict in Colombian and is now by the
ever-growing effects of climate change on their fragile environment.

Thinking Like a Mountain narrates the present- day struggle of the Arhuaco, an indigenous community who for centuries have lived in relative isolation in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada, The Arhuaco’s unique and formidable territory, which stretches from the snow-covered peaks of the Andes to the clear blue waters of the Caribbean has allowed the community to maintain their traditional way of life and unique belief system with very little outside influence. However in recent decades their ancestral lands have become a battleground and the Arhuaco have found themselves caught between Colombia’s drug-fueled armed conflict and at the mercy of global warming which is rapidly melting the Pico Simón Bolívar glacier, which is a vital source of water for the community and of immense cultural and spiritual significance to the mountain dwellers. For century’s the Arhuaco have carefully guarded their territory and few outsiders have ever been granted access to the area. This isolation has been crucial to the community’s survival for hundreds of years, going back to the Spanish conquest when the harsh terrain protected the population from the Conquistadores. However the inaccessibility of their lands turned against them as the armed conflict between the Colombian military and the FARC escalated. The remoteness and difficult terrain of the Arhuaco’s territory made it an ideal place for the FARC rebels to retreat to and evade military troops bringing full scale to the heartland of the Arhuaco community. This development has coincided with the continued increasing impact of global warming. The Sierra Nevada glaciers that constitute the Arhuaco’s principal source of water are some of the most vulnerable tropical glaciers in the world and the rate at which they are melting has accelerated dramatically over the last ten years. This rapidly changing environment has had an enormous social and psychological impact on the community who rely heavily on hunting, gathering and traditional subsistence farming. These severe issues have triggered debates among the leaders of the Arhuaco community as to whether their self-imposed isolationism is still viable and are faced with difficult decisions about how they will respond to the changing physical and political landscape.

How can places, inscribed with cultural significance, be reclaimed after they have been ravaged by military violence? What power does the image have in this struggle for social justice? What is the responsibility of the filmmaker to his or her subjects? Rather than attempting to answer these complex questions, Thinking Like a Mountain will present them to an audience in the voice of the of the Arhuaco and framed in a thoughtful and thought provoking manner.

With: Jwikamey Torres I José de la Cruz Torres I Mamo Bernandino Suarez I Norma Suarez I Tobía Chaparro I Rogelio Mejía Izquierdo I Margarita Villafañe I Nawingumu and family I Joel Norena Serna I Mercedes Torres I Mamo Efraín Torres I Cornelio Suarez I Bunkey Torres I Alfonso Suarez

Written and directed: Alexander Hick
Director of Photography: Immanuel Hick
Editing: Julian Sarmiento
Original music score: Christian Castagno and Nacho Drault

Producer: Anna Lozano, Alexander Hick
Consulting Producer: Maxim Holland, Gunter Hanfgarn

a cooperation of Flipping the coin Films and Hochschule für Fernsehen und Film

financially supported by 
FilmFernsehFonds Bayern and 
Freunde der HFF München.

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)



Atl Tlachinolli / Scorched Water

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, Schooting 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