NYFF 2021: A Chiara, What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?, Revivals | Festivals & Awards

I’m not even going to pretend I understood what the hell “What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?” was up to for 150 minutes, but I can’t deny it cast a spell that was often quite enchanting. The more  frustrated I got, the more interested I became. I’m not quite sure how that happened. Again, here we are with an ode to storytelling. Writer-director Aleksandre Koberidze has an offscreen narrator guide us through his dense tale about the denizens of a Georgian town. I wondered if the town itself were the narrator, as it knew every secret and every tradition. Yet, the narrator also goes off on more universal digressions, and I felt compelled to follow him even when I was left stranded.

Whoever’s telling this story, they start with a fantastic hook. Two potential lovers, Lisa and Giorgi have a Meet Cute on a street corner. Later, they meet again and immediately decide they belong together and hatch a plan to meet at a certain café to cement the agreement. However, there are evil forces at work! An evil eye has issued a curse, and though they are not technically allowed to speak to humans, four objects of nature and man-made construction reach out to Lisa to warn her about it. The seedling, an old rain gutter and a traffic camera provide details, but the wind, who had the most important details, could not reach Lisa due to a parked car blocking its path. The wind was supposed to tell her that she and Giorgi would wake up in the morning unable to recognize each other, and would be haunted forever by their missed meeting. The narrator issues this transformation by demanding the audience close its eyes until a bell rings.

When we open our eyes, the actors are not only different, but their characters have also lost any skills they had in their old incarnations. Lisa is no longer a medical professional, and Giorgi is no longer a soccer player on a team that appears to be headed for the major tournament that will keep everyone in town glued to their TV sets. The narrator tells us about the two places in town everyone watches these tournaments, the traditions behind those places and what it means if you’re beholden to a specific location. We even get a subplot featuring two dogs who want to watch the games together, but won’t do so because of their differing location preferences.

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