Cielo will leave you starstruck with its gorgeous imagery

US News

Scientists aren’t called natural philosophers any more, but the antiquated term describes what happens to those who study the night sky from the arid, high-altitude desert of Atacama in Chile. They may describe their work in terms of eclipses and spectography, but they also wax philosophical.

“We don’t even need the sky to understand how big nature is,” says one astronomer. And later: “Is the universe really what we happen to see? Or is it just what we are capable of seeing?” She compares her observations to those of an ant that has wandered to the top of its nest. It sees wonders, but what does it know of the cosmos?

Writer/director Alison McAlpine interviews scientists but also ordinary people from the region, who discuss the old folk legends about the stars. (The film’s title, Cielo, is Spanish for “sky” but also “heaven.”) There’s the gold miner who would rather look to the silvery dome above than scratch in the dust for terrestrial riches, and a husband and wife whose grasp of gravity is a little tenuous, though she clearly has more Newtonian sense than he does.

Another interviewee who grew up under Atacama’s starry skies says that when he first went to a city, it was as if the stars had come down to Earth in the form of headlights and streetlights. Weirdly, the opposite illusion exists for the many modern humans who have grown up awash in city lights, never seeing a natural night sky.

That man also recalls that as a child he would shine a flashlight straight up at night, hoping for a response. It nudged in me a childhood memory of doing the same. Cielo isn’t really a documentary about rural Chileans, or about astronomers, though it features both. It’s about rediscovering the wonder of the heavens above. In addition to talk, the film features gorgeous, silent time-lapse images of the slowly wheeling night sky, a blanket of dust and stars torn by satellites and meteors. It will leave you starstruck.

Cielo opens Aug. 10 in Toronto, Aug. 15 in Ottawa, Aug. 17 in Vancouver, Aug. 25 in Winnipeg and Aug. 31 in Edmonton.

cknight@postmedia.com

twitter.com/chrisknightfilm

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Source:: Nationalpost

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