Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The City Dark

The San Francisco Film Society presented Ian Cheney's documentary The City Dark on Tuesday, & I was one of only 3 people at the afternoon show at New People Cinema. The City Dark gently muses on the loss of the night sky due to light pollution. Various topics, from astronomy to crime, are covered in discrete chapters, using animation, interviews & nighttime photography. The film starts with the obvious loss of stars experienced by city dwellers but then moves on to surprising ecological issues. I had no idea that the glow of city lights sends turtle hatchlings in the wrong direction in their frantic scramble to the sea or that lit buildings cause the deaths of significant numbers of migrating birds. Even more alarming was the classification of night shift work as a carcinogen, since prolonged exposure to artificial light dangerously suppresses melatonin levels. The film would seem to represent an activist position, but its tone is completely low-key.

§ The City Dark
Ian Cheney
USA 2011, 84 min

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