The documentary Cielo is a visual tone poem about humankind’s relationship with the night sky, a philosophical exploration of the heavens above the Andes Mountains and the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. Written, directed and produced by Alison McAlpine, and shot by Benjamín Echazarreta, this contemplative and richly visualized astronomy doc combines incredible landscapes with celestial perspectives that encourage the audience to ponder its place amid the grand shrine of the cosmos.
Over the course of the movie, the filmmakers meet and spend time with professional astronomers and local residents, giving equal weight to the observations and musings of each. The masterful use of time-lapse photography, a painterly application of natural light, a deft use of in-camera “organic” effects, and an extraordinary sense of composition produce imagery that is truly mesmerizing.
The documentary received the American Cinematographer Award for Best Cinematography at the Salem Film Fest in March. Here, McAlpine discusses the making of the movie with Echazarreta, visual-effects cinematographer Mathieu Laverdière and visual-effects supervisor Philippe Toupin.
The Editor, American Cinematographer
Cielo: A beautiful film!! Photography, sound, structure, subject matter - enough to lift the spirits out of any earthly trough. A moving film in all senses of that word.”
- Walter Murch
Seen on a big screen, these images — photographed by cinematographer Benjamin Echazarreta — have a transporting power that comes close to approximating what it must be like to actually stand in Atacama, gazing up in awe.
- Hollywood Reporter
No planetarium could hope to replicate the awe-inspiring spectacle that is Alison McAlpine’s Cielo, a documentary screening at the 2017 New York Film Festival.
- Culture Trip
Fantastic. CIELO is like SAMSARA meets PARTICLE FEVER... It is very much my jam.”
- Jordan Hoffman
Among the 142 films featured at the latest Montréal International Documentary Festival, one of the most memorable was Cielo, the first feature film by Canadian director Alison McAlpine. Set in the Chilean Atacama Desert, Cielo is an exploration of the night sky’s hold over the people who live in the driest desert in the world.
- McGill Tribune
New York Film Festival 2017, “Cielo”, Among the Highlights - Talking Movies, BBC World News
“The documentary film Cielo is set in the Atacama Desert of Chile. I put Cielo on my “must-see list” after seeing extracts from the film at the press conference for Montreal’s RIDM film festival. The film is full of absolutely stunning images of the desert, and night skies full of more stars than you could imagine. And the Milky Way! Just stunning! In time-lapse sequences, the heavens seem to be rotating. The occasional shooting star zips by.”
- Mostly Movies