Enlightenment comes in ‘The City Dark’

The cinema is made of light. Films cannot exist without it. Light necessarily exposes the film or the digital chip on the camera, creating the images, providing enough of a halo for Gloria Swanson to be ready for her close-up and blasting through the projector on its way to the screen. It’s a bit of an irony then that “The City Dark,” a new documentary by Ian Cheney, is about so much darkness.

Cheney is, of course, not concerned with filmic light, but rather with a much larger concept — global light pollution. Maya Barlev is a senior astrophysics major at Haverford College. She is perhaps one of the few people you’ll meet in the greater Philadelphia area who are more conscious of darkness than of light.

“I think that looking at the night sky and the initial reaction that you get — that all humans get, regardless of background — is of understanding our size and our place in the universe,” she says.

It is this viewpoint, one that she shares with Cheney, that brought Barlev to first view ‘The City Dark.” And then to view it again. And eventually to introduce it at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute on April 23 as a part of the Green on Screen Series.

With constant light sources in our daily and nightly routine, ranging from the sun to the flickering fluorescents at your office, from the nightlight in your bathroom to the streetlight outside your window, it’s easy to lose track of the night sky. But why is that important?

“By turning the lights on ourselves, we are making ourselves the center of the universe,” Barlev says. “And without a connection to the night sky, we’re losing perspective. That’s one of Cheney’s major points, and I agree with that completely.”

“The City Dark” has made its way around the country via the film festival circuit, including stops at the Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival and the Environmental Film Festival at Yale, but this is no one-note, niche film. It is also playing top-tier fests like SXSW and is at once meditative and progressive.

“It’s this balance between understanding a need for darkness and understanding a need for progress, where light has been such a marker of progress in the modern era for such a long time,” Barlev says.

Original source here.


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