SECTION: New Nature Media / Desert Dreams

DESERT DREAMS :: Celebrating Five Seasons in the Sonoran Desert

with Music by GARY STROUTSOS

Click Here to View/Download our LIST OF 182 SPECIES of plants and animals<br /><br /> featured in this film

Click Here to View/Download our LIST OF 29 MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS featured in this film


Dispelling the notion that deserts are deserted places, DESERT DREAMS immerses viewers in a world filled with life and beauty year-round. This 52-minute multimedia tapestry showcases 182 species of Sonoran Desert plants and animals in a five-season chronology.  HD video content and time-lapse imagery captured over four years blends with stills from Thomas Wiewandt’s photographic archive compiled over three decades.  Using no narration, DESERT DREAMS combines natural sounds with a kaleidoscope of flute and percussion vignettes by Gary Stroutsos. Twenty-nine musical instruments with “earthy tones” can be heard in this film, including Chinese bamboo Dize & Xiao flutes, the African clay pot udu drum, a Cuban Marimbula thumb piano, a Middle Eastern frame drum, and Southwestern desert contemporary rim flutes.



The last four years of my life has been a living hell of surgeries, five near death experiences, eight weeks of Valley Fever and a Fungal infection attacking my joints, brain and culminating with a surgery removing a mold growing in my head. To say at one point or another, living in my physical and mental pain and anguish whether or not to continue living was definitely a massive struggle of questionable proportions! Your film was a source of great pleasure in dealing with the physical and psychological torment! This simple but brilliant PBS Documentary gave me strength, peace and solace of mind, to continue my journey forward through my painful medical and psychological issues that I am still dealing with to this day! At one point I couldn’t wait to see it during PBS pledge week, and would watch it over and over! Until attaining a copy of which now resides kind of permanently in my DVD player, as a continuing source of joy, meditative peace, and as a sometime daily therapeutic tool that has undoubtedly contributed in saving my life as well as improving it! . . . . Thank you Tom for this amazing gift to the world and to PBS for having the wisdom to air it!
~Ron Kendricks / Tucson, AZ

A beautiful meditation on nature’s harmony in what is perhaps America’s most under-appreciated landscape.
~Ken Burns, Documentary Filmmaker

As an emcee at the 2013 Wild & Scenic Film Festival, I viewed many great films and this one was my personal favorite. Desert Dreams is a love sonnet to the Sonoran Desert. It could only have been made by someone who has spent years in the landscape, fine tuning a naturalists eye. This film brings you intimately close to rare and beautiful moments and gently invites you to feel the pulse of the seasons. The filmmaker has spent so much time exploring the desert that he knows where, when, and how to capture its wildlife, moods, and light. This film is created with deep love and profound respect and lets the desert speak for itself — let it strengthen your resolve to become a steward of the desert.
~ John Muir Laws / Naturalist, Author, Artist, & Educator

Thank you for the copy of Desert Dreams. Itʻs beautifully done. Your approach to sound makes it something I would watch over and over. My 8-year old son, who only watches a few films by choice—most often Disneyʻs Fox & the Hound, Cars, and Cars 2, insisted that we watch it. He loved it, sat completely engrossed, oblivious to all else going on. That is as solid of an endorsement as one will get from our home!
~ Greg Budney, Curator of Audio, Macaulay Library, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Your video is spectacular; it’s your best work ever! It will be a big hit with people like me who are familiar with the subject matter. I think that naive viewers will also comprehend the story, but even if they don’t, they should be mesmerized by the visuals and music. It’s such a refreshing change from most other nature programs with their exaggerated, often anthropomorphic narration. I must add that you have another fan. I watch many nature programs, and my cats have never shown any interest in the TV. One of them stared intently at the screen for a full 20 minutes, and batted at the insects and lizards. (The other one ran out of the room during the thunderstorm.)
~ Mark Dimmitt, PhD, Former Director of Natural History at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

I just watched the film, and it was absolutely incredible. Absolutely mesmerizing. After seeing it, I feel transformed. Partly because I gained an even deeper appreciation for all that goes on here in the desert — and I already had a very deep appreciation. I think another reason is the in-the-moment quality of the film, the sense of which stays with me now as I go about doing my chores, etc. It was like a (gorgeous) lesson in being present. I cannot imagine how you were able to capture all that you did.
~ Kate Randall, co-owner Antigone Books

What a powerful gift to all who are fortunate enough to witness this visual experience. Can’t thank you enough. There were so many moments that were just stunning. I have never been so drawn into something quite like I was with this. Again, thank you.
~ Wylie Baker, Hospice Social Worker

Part of the power of this film is the lack of narration, for sure. Good call! There’s too much talking in the world. It was sort of a relief to have all those beautiful images wash over us without chatter, outside mediation of the experience. Silence is Space.
~ Deb Francine-Hills, Museum Gift Shop Buyer and Marketing Specialist

In an age when so many natural history programs bombard us with the human voice and try to impress us with overly dramatized images of wildlife, often in combat, DESERT DREAMS is a refreshing departure. The film’s stunning imagery paired with beautiful, elegant music allows us to experience the glory of the Sonoran Desert as it is meant to be and to form our own interpretation of what that experience means to us.
~ Craig Ivanyi, Executive Director of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

I never knew how beautiful the desert could be. I felt its ‘beingness,” and I came away with a feeling of peace and love for all of nature. Every day Mother Earth gifts us with something profound, and most times, we are unaware of it. Anyone watching this must surely sense the love that you put in to making this film . . . The cinematography is awesome . . . the music wonderful. I think if there had been a narrator, it would have taken away what the viewer felt.
~ Connie Patterson / Ontario, Canada



DESERT DREAMS made its big-screen debut in Tucson on Sunday afternoon May 19, 2013 at the historic Fox Theater. This fun and informative indoor outing was a community-wide celebration of our desert that included displays with informative handouts from 15 participating conservation and arts organizations in the theater lobby, live animal demonstrations, a Southwestern rim flute presentation by Gary Stroutsos, and a raffle. The film was followed by a Q&A session with filmmaker Thomas Wiewandt, musician Gary Stroutsos, and editor John Hadwin. Our emcee was Matthew Nelson, environmental educator and Executive Director of the Arizona Trail Association.



On October 10, 2013, DESERT DREAMS was screened at the Harkins Valley Art Theater in Tempe, Arizona as part of Arizona State University’s Arts and Humanities in Sustainability Series. The event was sponsored by ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability. Filmmaker Thomas Wiewandt introduced his film and held a discussion at the end.



Arizona Public Media’s largest PBS Station KAET-8, based in Phoenix, will be broadcasting DESERT DREAMS multiple times in December 2013 as part of their Pledge Drive. The premiere broadcast is scheduled for December 4 at 7p.m. Musician Gary Stroutsos will be flying in from Seattle to give a live performance at KAET. Pledge gifts for donors will include DESERT DREAMS on DVD, Gary’s ECHOES FROM PRAYER ROCK music CD, and two books authored by Thomas Wiewandt, HIDDEN LIFE OF THE DESERT (a companion book to the film) and THE SOUTHWEST INSIDE OUT, an award-winning, picture-driven overview of the origin of spectacular landscapes of the American Southwest.

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