This review was originally published during the 2011 SXSW Film Festival on March 13, 2011.
I can't recall if I read Michael Pollan first or saw Aaron Woolf's "King Corn" first. The two experiences occurred roughly the same time (in mid 2007). But either way I'm sure that I learned a lot about the food industry from the latter (which features Pollan as a talking head). And as an ignorant eater unaware that corn dominates our diet and may be ruining the American farm system through its industrialization, I appreciated the way its information was filtered through the investigatory curiosity of two college buddies, who learned right alongside the viewer.
Now one of those inquisitive guys, Ian Cheney, who is also credited as a writer and producer of 'King Corn,' has a new directorial effort (following his 2008 debut, 'The Greening of Southie'), which is a similar sort of personal journey that looks into another sort of taken-for-granted subject. Titled "The City Dark," the new documentary, umm, sheds light on the growing problems of light, specifically of the artificial variety. Like corn, artificial light seems to be another hidden evil, evidence that, as the film states, "everything that does good to humans also does bad."
At first, the film concentrates on how all the light emitting from cities hinders our ability to see the stars. Obvious, I know. We don't exactly need for Cheney, in first-person filmmaker mode, to hit Times Square at night to show us how bright it is and how there is no celestial visibility. And I think it slightly ironic that "The City Dark" is co-produced by Rooftop Films, which shows movies on rooftops in NYC during the summer (that's how I first saw "King Corn"), and these screenings are also sometimes hard to fully appreciate due to the lack of outside darkness in certain areas.
Continue reading this review at Cinematical.
"The City Dark" is now playing at the IFC Center in NYC.
Recommended If You Like: "King Corn"; "Gasland"; "Nostalgia for the Light"