That director Alison McAlpine used to be a poet is obvious after viewing her latest documentary “Cielo.” The word means ‘heaven” in Spanish, and here McAlpine uses the visuals in much the same way a poet uses words to express aesthetic qualities of her subject.
The film is a celebration of the sky high above Northern Chile’s Atacama Desert, just west of the Andes Mountains. Time lapse cameras capture the ethereal beauty of the wild blue yonder, day and night. To comment she brings in a variety of people to comment on their relationship with the sky, the sun and moon from scientific, cultural and spiritual standpoints. We meet everyone from astronomers and cowboys, to miners and algae collectors. Elderly indigenous storyteller Roberto Garcia says he flies around the stars while professional stargazer Mercedes Lopez reflects on the data she and her colleagues collect. From the personal to the professional, “Cielo” presents a profound collection of perspectives on life’s ceiling.
McAlpine herself chimes in, saying, “the sky is more urgent than the land,” and she does a wonderful job of capturing the beauty and the mystery of the sky. By the time the end credits roll we’re left with some engaging stories and observations but it is the visuals that make a lasting impression.