The farm village of Aldealseñor, Spain has seen it all, and contains it: fossilized traces of Mesozoic reptiles, ruins of Roman settlements from the conquest of Numantia, a Moorish palace pre-dating Christian reclamation (and the village itself), and a 500-year-old oak bearing witness to everything from long-forgotten burials to Fascist rule to a dramatic depopulation. The last child born in Aldealseñor, filmmaker Mercedes Álvarez, returned in 2003 to record the history living amidst 14 remaining elderly holdouts and the near-ancient rhythms that still perdure. The resultant The Sky Turns is a documentary marvel, excavating the strata of epochs and applying its findings to the grand scope and frustrating limitations of cultural heritage and personal memory, and the mysteries of mortality and time.
Though shaped by Álvarez's own experiences, The Sky Turns places primary importance on the way Aldealseñor's inhabitants process change. Life goes slowly on in the form of sheepherding and grounds-tending even as remote fields make way for sci-fi-style turbines and the palace is transformed into a tourist-catering hotel. The 21st century encroaches, yet Aldealseñorians muse on extinction and the futility of large-scale events with Beckettian wryness: the American invasion of Iraq is discussed as abstractly as a soccer match, and fallen plums in a cemetery are morbidly referred to as possessing "the taste of death."Through her former neighbors—and purblind painter friend Pello Azketa, whose landscapes suggest the sublime fallibility of the human vantage point—Álvarez accords respect to the major geological and historical shifts that define millennia as well as the nonchalance of time that makes of them merely ephemeral stages on the road to eternity.
February 11-17 at Anthology Film Archives