Eight years in the making, with a cast of hundreds of Aymara Indians - assisted, the credits tell us, 'by the powerful didactic gods of the altiplano' - Sanjinés' film explores the multiplicity of nations composing his native Bolivia. The 'secret nation' is the indigenous culture that continues alongside the urban-based and westernised political structures. It is also the 'society within society' of a nation divided into soldiers and spies on the one hand, and those labelled and hunted down as 'subversives' on the other. The conflicts and contradictions are explored through the person of Don Sebastián, a coffin-maker living on the city outskirts, who returns to his native village to die in the dance of expiation and death that opens and closes the film. Wearing a mask of both angel and devil, his propitiation is to the extraordinary high and misty mountains, wild skies and haunting music that are the true 'gods' - or inspiration - of this powerful film.