Alison McAlpine, ALMA Observatory, Chile, 5000 metres.


Cielo is a rapturous act of cinematic contemplation… McAlpine conveys the sky’s profound relationship to memory, family, spirituality, history and heritage. This majestic movie… looks up in order to look within.”


“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

“In terms of sheer visual majesty, McAlpine’s film ranks as one of the year’s great achievements in cinematography.”

Roger Ebert

Alison began her career as a published poet, inspired by family tales and the oral traditions of British Columbia where she grew up. Writer Alastair MacLeod dubbed her work as “film poetry” given its visual, dreamlike imagery. Discovering theatre in Ireland, she soon after founded a performance company and wrote and directed music-theatre works such as Chilcotin Sky and Still Moon on Fire, which toured Canada and Europe, collaborating with international theatre artists and actors who trained in clown/movement with Philippe Gaulier and Pierre Byland in France and Italy and at Canada’s Stratford Theatre.

Encouraged towards cinema by her ensemble, the success of her commission to write a TVOpera, inspired Alison to make her first film, Second Sight (2008), an award-winning mid-length film which screened at more than 35 international film festivals. BBC commissioned two versions of Second Sight. Ghostman of Skye, made for BBC Wonderland, 2009, was “Pick of the Day” or “Critics Choice” in every major UK newspaper.

Cielo, Alison’s first feature, premiered at the 55th New York Film Festival 2017, and has been presented at over 150 international film festivals and cinemas across the world including Karlovy Vary IFF; Hot Docs; Film Forum, New York City; TIFF Bell Lightbox Toronto; Ahrya Fine Arts by Laemle, LA; Filmhouse Edinburgh; Cinema du Parc Montreal etc. Named as “One of the best documentaries of 2018” by Esquire and The Guardian, Cielo has won several awards and four 2019 Gala Québec nominations.

Blending and blurring the boundaries between documentary and fiction, Alison’s films are immersive, sensorial and cinematic with a strong emphasis on character and landscape. Her work explores hybrid, innovative approaches to narrative and what a story can be; her intimate connection with her subjects reflects a sense of contagious wonder, her camera feels invisible; the musicality and associations of sounds and images always play a key role.

A Mordecai Richler Writer in Residence/Filmmaker in Residence at McGill University (2020), she has been teaching experimental approaches to nonfiction cinema. Alison is a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow currently working on several new films and writings.

“Cielo, a serene, existential experience from the Canadian filmmaker Alison McAlpine.”

— The Globe and Mail

“Eye-popping. Exquisite. The images in the film are unmatched by any Hollywood blockbuster.”

— Village Voice

“A cinematic rumination on the majesty of everything that surrounds us.”

— Esquire

“McAlpine’s Cielo is an awesomely beautiful and poetic contemplation of the stars.”

— POV Magazine

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