'Awaken' documentary captures natural beauty of Earth and our night sky

A new documentary by award-winning astrophotographer Tom Lowe is showcasing humanity's relationship to the natural world, including the sky above our heads.

Called 'Awaken,' the 4K HDR documentary premiered Friday (April 9) on the science fiction site Dust and is available on digital platforms worldwide. In the United States, you can catch it on Prime Video, Apple TV+, Google Play, Microsoft, RedBox, FandangoNow and Vudu; if you live elsewhere, consult the official website to see where you can view it.

The official trailer for 'Awaken', available on YouTube, includes numerous references to space, including shots of the Milky Way rising over the desert, soaring mountain shots with dark skies behind, and humans performing rituals underneath the stars.

Auroras dance in the night sky in director Tom Lowe's documentary "Awaken," which debuted on Dust April 9, 2021. (Image credit: Dust/Gunpowder & Sky/Dubai Film)

"'Awaken' explores humanity's relationship with technology and the natural world," the trailer's description reads. "Shot over a five-year period in more than 30 countries, the film pioneers state-of-the-art timelapse, time-dilation, underwater, and aerial cinematography techniques to give audiences new eyes with which to see our world."

Lowe credits two childhood sources for his love of astrophotography shown in the documentary: famed scientist and science communicator Carl Sagan, who narrated a TV series called 'Cosmos' in 1980, and Boy Scout camping trips to the Sierra Mountains in California. Lowe also was named 'Astronomy Photographer of the Year' by BBC's Sky at Night magazine in 2010, for a shot of the Milky Way behind a bristlecone pine tree in Sierra Nevada.

Director Tom Lowe's debut feature film "Awaken" on Dust showcases the stunning beauty of the natural world and night sky.

(Image credit: Dust/Gunpowder & Sky/Dubai Film)

"In the sixth grade, our science teacher played the entire 'Cosmos' series for us in class and ever since, I have been fascinated by the grandeur, mystery and enormity of space," Lowe told Space.com. 

Thinking back on his Boy Scout experiences, Lowe added he was so pleased to capture views of the Sierras once again in 'Awaken', using helicopter timelapse shots. "I hope 'Awaken' will inspire people to get out into nature and to sleep under the stars, without a tent, weather permitting. I'm convinced that staring up at the night sky stirs deep, unconscious, uplifting genetic memories in humans," he said.

The documentary was executive-produced by Terrence Malick and Godfrey Reggio, and narrated by actor Liv Tyler ("Ad Astra," "Lord of the Rings"). The production studio is Gunpowder & Sky's sci-fi entertainment branch Dust, whose back catalog of space shorts includes "Orbit", "FTL" and the fictional astronaut flick "Nine Minutes."

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace