“The first feature from Alison McAlpine, director of the beautiful 2008 “nonfiction ghost story” short Second Sight, is a dialogue with the heavens—in this case, the heavens above the Andes and the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, where the sky “is more urgent than the land.” McAlpine keeps the vast galaxies above and beyond in a delicate balance with the earthbound world of people, gently alighting on the desert- and mountain-dwelling astronomers, fishermen, miners, and cowboys who live their lives with reverence and awe for the skies. Cielo itself is an act of reverence and awe, and its sense of wonder ranges from the intimate and human to the vast and inhuman.”

Director’s Notes

Cielo is a film born from the emotion of seeing the night sky in the Atacama Desert, Chile. I
had never seen such beauty and felt a profound freedom inside, so many questions arose. I set
off on a journey in this desert to explore and discover what we call sky. Few of us look above
and pay attention to the stars or planets in our daily lives; what would it be like to live in this
otherworldly landscape where even the earth is gazing upward?

Cielo is a conversation with the stars and an encounter with the desert dwellers and scientists I
spent time with while journeying in this isolated region of Chile. Cielo is also an exploration of
what a story can be. Traditional narrative notions of plot development, dramatic arc, character
exposition etc hold no interest for me. The unfolding of our narrative is more associative than
logical. We reveal with juxtapositions of image and sound- for instance, the intimacy of a
human moment vis-à-vis the epic scale of the night sky. And the film’s narration is like a poem,
the voice and writing hopefully natural, working directly, emotionally like music. My wish is that
Cielo allows us to lose our sense of time in the film sky and rediscover our world, offering
fellow travellers an evocative space in which to think and imagine for themselves. Or even
experience a moment of transcendence, what photographer Robert Frank calls, “the poetry
behind the surfaces of things”.