mountain profile Institute for Astronomy University of Hawaii

Award-Winning Documentary Comes to Honolulu

Maintained by LG

For immediate release
December 16, 2011


Donna Bebber
IfA Events Coordinator

Louise Good
IfA Media Contact

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2.6 Mb TIFF


Light pollution is particularly obvious if you view Honolulu from a high location, such as Tantalus. Photo by Richard Wainscoat.

The Honolulu city lights may stir memories as the popular song says, but they make it difficult to see the stars. On January 4, "The City Dark," a feature documentary about light pollution and the disappearing night sky will have its Hawaii premier at 7 p.m. in the University of Hawaii at Manoa Art Building Auditorium.

Filmmaker Ian Cheney and UH astronomer Richard Wainscoat will participate in a discussion after the screening of the 84-minute film.

After moving to light-polluted New York City from rural Maine, Cheney was inspired to ask, "Do we need the dark?" Exploring the threat of killer asteroids in Hawaii, tracking hatching turtles along the Florida coast, and rescuing injured birds on Chicago streets, Cheney unravels the myriad implications of a globe glittering with lights—including increased breast cancer rates from exposure to light at night, and a generation of kids without a glimpse of the universe above.

The film features stunning astrophotography and a cast of eclectic scientists (including UH's Jeff Kuhn), philosophers, historians, and lighting designers. It premiered in competition at the 2011 South by Southwest Film Festival, where it won the Jury Prize for Best Score/Music.

A Brooklyn-based documentary filmmaker, Cheney grew up in New England and earned his bachelor's and master's degrees at Yale. After graduate school, he co-created and starred in the Peabody Award-winning theatrical hit and PBS documentary "King Corn" (2007), directed the feature documentary "The Greening of Southie" (Sundance Channel, 2008), and co-produced the Planet Green film "Big River" (2009).

Cheney maintains a 1/1000th acre farm in the back of his '86 Dodge pickup, which is at the center of his film "Truck Farm" (2011). In 2011, he and longtime collaborator Curt Ellis received the Heinz Award for their environmental advocacy.

An avid astrophotographer, Ian travels frequently to show his films, lead discussions, and give talks about sustainability, agriculture, and the human relationship to the natural world.

Wainscoat is the UH Institute for Astronomy's resident expert on light pollution and what it means for the observatories on Haleakala and Mauna Kea.46

There is no charge for the screening, but parking on campus will cost $6. For more information, see

The event is sponsored by the Institute for Astronomy, Enterprise Honolulu, the Halekulani, Rebuild Hawaii Consortium, and the State of Hawaii.

Picture caption:

Light pollution is particularly obvious if you view Honolulu from a high location, such as Tantalus. Photo by Richard Wainscoat.

Founded in 1967, the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa conducts research into galaxies, cosmology, stars, planets, and the sun. Its faculty and staff are also involved in astronomy education, deep space missions, and in the development and management of the observatories on Haleakala and Mauna Kea.

Established in 1907 and fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the University of Hawaii is the state's sole public system of higher education. The UH System provides an array of undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees and community programs on 10 campuses and through educational, training, and research centers across the state. UH enrolls more than 50,000 students from Hawaii, the U.S. mainland, and around the world.