Edition 30 September, by Jeroen Spangenberg

The film Cielo, produced by filmmaker Alison McAlpine, is about the astonishing Chilean sky that is visible from the Atacama Desert, and the people who live in the desert. The visibility of the stars is crystal clear, because there is no light pollution and clouds are almost nonexistent. The conditions in the Atacama Desert make it the perfect location for astronomical observations. Several big telescopes are currently being built in Chile, namely the ‘Giant Magellan Telescope’ and the ‘European Extremely Large Telescope.’

Alison McAlpine describes the film in the following way: “The unforgettable Chilean sky, and the remarkable characters we filmed are at the heart of “Cielo.” These desert dwellers and scientists who live and work in the Atacama Desert – their stories, their reflections, their humor and humanity, and the endless beauty of the sky – were, and are, my continual inspiration.” Her inspiration is an inspiration for all: the sky in Chile is magnificent and the Atacama Desert is a place I would like to visit too. This is why I wanted to see this movie. The images in the movie are great, as is already clear from the trailer. McAlpine’s movie is poetic and a bit philosophical, as she goes on a journey with the locals and their stories. The movie depicts how the locals live in the desert and several people who work for the observatory are interviewed. However, at times the movie is slow, the voiceover from McAlpine could have been improved and the movie could have been more poetic at times, but less at other times. The lives of the people at the observatory receive little attention. It would also have been interesting to know how the few locals who remain survive in the desert. Some of the local people talk about their folklore and their imagination. This is certainly interesting, but other questions are unanswered. Big astronomical questions are not touched upon in the movie.

Don’t expect this to be a flashy movie, a real-life documentary or a very poetic story; it’s rather a slow-paced movie about life in the desert. After all, life in the desert is slow-paced. The movie doesn’t answer all questions, but McAlpine does a good job in raising them.