Grades 7-12, College, Adult
Directed by Ian Cheney
Produced by Wicked Delicate Films
DVD Purchase $295, Rent $95
US Release Date: 2012
Copyright Date: 2011
DVD ISBN: 1-93777-207-1
Urban and Regional Planning
Awards and Festivals
Nationwide PBS Broadcast on "POV"
New York Times Critics' Pick
Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature, Environmental Film Festival at Yale
Jury Prize for Best Score/Music, SXSW Film Festival
Mountainfilm in Telluride
Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital
Indianapolis Film Festival
Woods Hole Film Festival
Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival
Maui International Film Festival
Independent Film Festival, Boston
Geek Film Festival
Princeton Environmental Film Festival
San Francisco Green Film Festival
Durango Independent Film Festival
EcoFocus Film Festival
Talking Pictures Festival
Tales from Planeat Earth Festival
Ecofalante Environmental Film Festival
Reel Earth Film Festival
Architecture Film Festival Rotterdam
Lund International Architecture Film Festival (Sweden)
Environmental Film Festival Australia
The City Dark|
A Search for Night on a Planet that Never Sleeps
The definitive story of light pollution and the disappearing stars.
Note: There are two versions of this program on the same DVD: 83-minutes and 58-minutes.
THE CITY DARK chronicles the disappearance of darkness. The film follows filmmaker (and amateur astronomer) Ian Cheney (KING CORN, BIG RIVER,TRUCK FARM), who moves to New York City from Maine and discovers an urban sky almost completely devoid of stars. He poses a deceptively simple question, "What do we lose, when we lose the night?".
Exploring the threat of killer asteroids in Hawai'i, tracking disoriented hatching turtles along the Florida coast, and rescuing birds on Chicago streets injured by collisions with buildings, Cheney unravels the myriad implications of a globe glittering with lights--including increased breast cancer rates from exposure to light at night, and a generation of kids without a glimpse of the universe above. In six chapters weaving together cutting-edge science with personal, meditative sequences reflecting on the human relationship to the sky, THE CITY DARK shines new light on the meaning of the dark.
The film features stunning astrophotography and a cast of eclectic scientists, philosophers, historians, and lighting designers including Hayden Planetarium director Neil deGrasse Tyson, astronaut Don Pettit, neurologist Dr. George Brainard, Harvard Medical School scientist Dr. Steven Lockley, cosmologist Chris Impey, and lighting designer Hervé Descottes.
"The City Dark is a thought provoking, revealing and judicious film. Aware people will greatly appreciate the long-awaited appearance of a documentary that finally brings to light some dangerous distortions of our society. For the unaware, the unfortunately large proportion of inhabitants of our planet, the film will be an eye-opener. Cheney beautifully links astronomy to biology, with social and anthropological ramifications that should be conveyed to our politicians. As clock biologist and amateur astronomer, I loved this film!"
Dr. Paolo Sassone-Corsi, Distinguished Professor and Director, Center for Epigenetics and Metabolism, University of California-Irvine
"A clear, concise, well-documented exploration of a seldom-considered issue while simultaneously proposing answers to help offset it. Those concerned about the environment, wildlife, human health, and our vanishing cultural heritage will find The City Dark an enlightening view."
Brent Marchant, Library Journal
"Cheney reaches out to scientists in multiple disciplines to discuss the implications of this very recent technological and settlement change...A very useful documentary in the classroom context. There are many springboards for further discussion and use of supplementary materials, and the film is recommended for those who teach human ecology, urban studies, and astronomy."
Jeff Wanser, Hiram College, Anthropology Review Database
"Entertaining and thought-provoking...Mr. Cheney's film is a personal lament for the star-filled night sky he experienced growing up in Maine, but it is neither sorrowful nor a rant; he somehow manages to give this engaging work a sense of humor. He also manages to make it smart...This film makes you want to go find a starry sky to camp under quickly, before it's all gone."
Neil Genzlinger, The New York Times
"This film puts an engaging personal touch on the question of why have the stars disappeared from urban skies around the world. And more importantly, what have we lost because of this light pollution? The story is not just for astronomers - you'll never look at the sky in quite the same way again."
Dr. Woody Sullivan, Professor, Astronomy Department, University of Washington, Co-editor, Preserving the Astronomical Environment
"The City Dark takes viewers to the dark side. Most people on this planet are city dwellers that have never seen a truly dark sky...Cheney shows viewers just how dramatically our view of the night sky is being altered by urbanization. Like the rain forests and wildlife habitats, urbanization is eating away the primeval dark sky, to the point where most people rarely see anything up there but the Moon and a few bright planets...The City Dark won't leave you in the dark about light pollution. It's a must see for city dwellers who don't know what they're missing!"
Dr. Terry D. Oswalt, Professor and Head, Physics and Space Sciences Department, Florida Institute of Technology
"A compelling journey of learning and realization that delves into the basic questions raised by the explosive spread of electrical lighting in the past 125 years: What does it mean to our place in the universe to not see the stars? What does it mean for our own health and that of other species to be exposed to light at night? Why do we light the night? What can we do about it? The images and stories speak for themselves, nudging the viewer through a gradual transition from appreciating the beauty of sparkling city lights, to recognizing their damaging effects on people and other species, to imagining a healthier and more sustainable future. The City Dark is an excellent introduction to an under-appreciated topic, which it approaches in a fair-minded and balanced manner."
Travis Longcore, Associate Professor, Spatial Sciences Institute, University of Southern California, Co-Editor, Ecological Consequences of Artificial Night Lighting
"The City Dark is the most comprehensive and intelligent documentary on light pollution to have been produced. Ian has examined the societal issues related to the rise of light pollution in a way that tries to challenge the viewer to think differently about the way we use outdoor lighting. He has also been able to distill the sometimes complex technical issues related to light at night (LAN) into a very accessible and informative source of information that anyone can use."
Bob Parks, Executive Director, International Dark-Sky Association
"Comprehensive...helps us discover that night skies are more than just a pretty tableau--although the striking nighttime cinematography in the film never lets us forget how lovely they are...A great way to demonstrate that astronomy has real world implications and its importance to our everyday life."
"Highly recommended for general audiences...The video provides excellent support for astronomy, urban studies and environmental curricula. Perhaps the first non-planetarium experience of the stars for inner city viewers, the film will remind all of the humbling vastness and extraordinary beauty of the universe."
Cliff Glaviano, Bowling Green State University, Educational Media Reviews Online
"Poetic and visually arresting (even hypnotic)...Stunning astrophotography...Highly recommended."
"The City Dark is an extraordinarily thoughtful documentary, highly recommended especially for public and school library collections."
The Midwest Book Review
"Thought-provoking...Reminds viewers to appreciate a star-filled night sky and our place in the universe."
"The most important thing The City Dark has to tell us is that by losing touch with the stars, we've lost touch with something that inspired our distant ancestors in a profoundly spiritual way...It's no accident, observes [Hayden Planetarium's Neil deGrasse] Tyson at one point, that so many ancient people focused their religious yearnings on the stars--mysterious, glorious beacons that blazed down from skies unpolluted by city lights.Those stars may not become any more visible soon, but the movie will."
Michael Lemonick, TIME
"Wonderful film...The myriad implications of a planet glittering with artificial lights are explored, from increased health risks to a generation of kids deprived of the wonders of the universe. Featuring stunning astrophotography and a cast of eclectic scientists, historians, and lighting designers, The City Dark is a cautionary tale of light pollution and the disappearance of the night sky."
San Francisco Green Film Festival
"An informative, well-rounded look at light pollution told with a star-gazing enthusiast's passion for his subject...Impressive images of star-filled nights will remind audiences of childhood trips to the planetarium, and few will fail to notice the difference when they next look up into the heavens."
"The effects are multifaceted, and Cheny reaches out to scientists in multiple disciplines to discuss the implications of this very recent technological and settlement change...A very useful documentary in the classroom context. There are many springboards for further discussion and use of supplementary materials, and the film is recommended for those who teach human ecology, urban studies, and astronomy."
Jeff Wanser, Hiram Collage, Anthropology Review Database
"Ian Cheney did a wonderful job with this movie...A very personal, compelling, and unique perspective on the issues of light pollution and the disappearing stars...Unexpectedly, this film also teaches us about humility, i.e. not focusing entirely on or thinking too highly of ourselves, but putting ourselves and our lives in proper perspective. Specifically, by looking at the stars and thinking about the greater universe, we should come to realize how little we know and how small we are in the grand scheme of things."
Clement Lau, UrbDeZine
"A crucial film...We've documented light pollution in our own neighborhood and urge others to do the same...This is one you definitely shouldn't miss."
David Dickinson, Astro Guyz