Historical Recovery in a Spanish Village in The Sky Turns

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The Sky Turns
Directed by Mercedes Álvarez
New Yorker Films
Anthology, February 11 through 18

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An award winner at Rotterdam way back in 2005, Mercedes Álvarez’s The Sky Turns, a film that aims to both fix and interrogate historical memory, becomes itself an act of historical recovery as it makes its belated theatrical debut. Returning to her tiny Spanish hometown of Aldealseñor after 35 years, Álvarez turns her lens on the few remaining elderly inhabitants of the village as they recount local legends or indulge in a bit of amateur philosophizing. For the film’s first half, the director paints Aldealseñor as a place utterly out of time, its hardscrabble farmland and abandoned central palace emitting a silent palpable stillness. Widening her scope, Álvarez, the last person born in the village, opens up the region’s past via archival photos of Franco’s Fascists converging in the town square and present-day tour guides leading trips through Roman ruins. As the village hangs in stasis between history and future, construction crews invade the quiet to transform a town landmark into a luxury hotel. Nothing speaks more elegantly to the bewilderment of the locals than a long shot of newly built windmills lining a distant hilltop while a villager, made tiny by Álvarez’s framing, looks on in the foreground, swallowed up by the forces of history.

 
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