November 20, 2014
El cielo otra vez: Long live the Andean Condor
For the Herald
“Clearly, the focus is on the breeding of condors in captivity and their posterior freeing in order to reinsert them into their natural habitat, but I was interested in drawing an account about the motivation and commitment of a group of biologists and volunteers who donate their time to a scientific activity turned into a ritual,” says filmmaker Gustavo Alonso about his documentary El cielo otra vez, starring no less than the Andean condor, the largest flying bird in the world that is again alive and well in the skies of Patagonia thanks to the latest biotechnological advances together with the cosmovision of the indigenous communities, the millenary guardians of these sacred birds.
El cielo otra vez is not your predictable documentary about nature and its creatures, meaning it’s not a clinically scientific examination of a situation or a phenomenon. It’s not a dry account at all for it brings forward the subjectivity, feelings and sentiments of those involved in the breeding and freeing of the Andean condor.
Instead, it’s about they dialogue they establish with the condor, the rituals for its growth and well being, and the heartfelt devotion of scientists very much in touch with what they do. Plus it’s also very informative in an accessible, informal manner. In a matter of minutes, you see a world you never imagined it existed. And there’s something else that sets El cielo otra vez apart from other similar documentaries: the affection and togetherness shared by scientists and members of indigenous communities alike in their joint efforts. So, in these regards, it works out quite well.
There’s an involuntary distance between the film and the viewers, most likely due to very schematic formal structure, be it in the too linear script, the mechanic pace, or the conventional visuals.
At times, it feels as though you were watching a good television report on an interesting subject, but with no alluring aesthetics whatsoever. Not that the subject calls for or needs an avant-garde approach per se, but it wouldn’t have hurt to go for something more stirring.
That said, El cielo otra vez does somewhat fulfills the basic expectations: it’s informative, it’s didactic, and it’s well shot. And that’s it.
El cielo otra vez (Argentina, 2009-2014). Written & directed by Gustavo Alonso. Cinematography: Pablo Degliantoni and Hendrik Mijers. Music: Lolo Micucci. Produced by Noe-mí Fuhrer. Running time: 66 minutes.