It was already called the cruelest place on earth before the Americans even showed up.
In 1970, Tom Desmond was considered the greatest emerging filmmaker since Hitchcock. Then, an on-set accident and substance abuse ended his career.
On the eve of the horrific 1984 Ethiopian famine, he was handed a chance to redeem himself by directing a documentary of a vanishing society of people living in that country’s Danakil Depression.
The project is plagued by difficulties, made worse by insufferable weather and the crew’s own cultural and geo-political ignorance.
As the world eagerly anticipates the film, chaos consumes it. Under almost unbearable pressure, Desmond and his crew are forced to concoct more and more strategies, each more outlandish than the last, to not just finish the project but survive the experience.
Eventually, Desmond – tormented by his past and the project – realizes his real reason for being in that desert.
And it isn’t to make a movie.