AFF Review: The Stars at Night

Texas-filmed doc laments the night sky lost to light pollution

In Hays County, where filmmaker Elizabeth Buckley resides, the night sky is vibrant, visible to the naked eye, full of wonder. Fifteen miles west, to San Marcos, where Buckley teaches at Texas State University, less so. And in nearby Austin, with its skyscrapers blazing light at all hours? Don’t bet on it.

We live in a light-distracted world – certainly in cities, but increasingly in our suburban and rural areas, too. Light pollution, which obscures the night sky, impacts animal migration, sleep patterns, and humans’ connection to the cosmos that has inspired storytellers from Carl Sagan and Joseph Campbell to the Ancient Greeks and the prehistoric artists in the Lascaux cave.

That last point is the one that seems to most interest Buckley, an Emmy, Peabody, and Gracie award-winning producer and writer. Her documentary, The Stars at Night, draws an explicit connection between the stars and humans’ storytelling instincts, and assembles an array of folks to expound that connection, including a mythologist, an astronomer, and an astrophotographer. They speak to the stories the night sky has inspired, often overlapping – the Pleiades star cluster, for instance, which has sparked multiple cultures to invent an origin story involving seven divine sisters. Particularly relevant for the Austin Film Festival crowd – the fest and conference has always been writer-centric – The Stars at Night is at its most engrossing exploring this particular angle.

Less illuminating is a through line involving four Texas State film students, selected to document their trip to Big Bend to see the Milky Way. They are charismatic and goofy and quite eloquent about the impact this experience has had on them. But the minutes spent with them road tripping west or clowning around with each other do not always feel like the most fruitful way to fill the short running time. Ultimately, The Stars at Night – visually striking, appropriately awestruck – has more ideas than its quick 55 minutes can contain.

The Stars at Night

World Premiere
Thu., Nov. 2, 4:30pm, Galaxy Theatre

Austin Film Festival runs Oct. 26-Nov. 3. Badges available now at austinfilmfestival.com.
Find more news, reviews, and interviews at Austinchronicle.com/AFF.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More by Kimberley Jones
Robot Dreams
Dog and Robot find companionship in this lovely and touching Oscar-nominated animated film

June 14, 2024

Arts, Comedy, Theatre, Movies, and More Recommended Weekend Events
Arts, Comedy, Theatre, Movies, and More Recommended Weekend Events
Jackie and Foxy Brown?! Yes please!

June 7, 2024

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Austin Film Festival, AFF 2023, Austin Film Festival 2023, AFF, The Stars at Night, Elizabeth Buckley

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle