Apollo 11

Apollo 11 (2019)

Directed by Todd Douglas Miller

Like so many kids of my generation I was obsessed with space and space travel, something that has persisted in my love of pure science as well as science fiction literature and film. One of my earliest preschool memories was running around our yard in rural Australia with an empty cereal box as a helmet, telling anyone who would listen I was going to be the first singing astronaut.

This week marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission and my local, the State Cinema in Hobart has joined with a few other independent cinemas to run a Moon Festival. This short season of moon-related features opened tonight with the documentary Apollo 11.

As a child of the 60s (I was 10 when Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon) this film bought back many memories, such as having the day off school in the middle of winter, sitting with my friends on our couch, all with our legs raised trying to put our foot on the ground the same time as Neil Armstrong. And long conversations with my beloved father about physics, space travel, what we might find there and the hope the Apollo missions represented for humanity.

So, as soon as the pre-mission countdown began at Cape Kennedy (now Cape Canaveral) and the luscious sound design started to work its magic, I knew I was being emotionally manipulated by a very cleverly made documentary – and I welcomed it with open arms! Rather than filling screen with facts and figures, this film explores more the feeling of the time and the profound nature of the mission. Even though I know how the story goes, I felt the tension build in me as the astronauts and their ground crews approached crisis points.

Everything about this film is big – the opening scenes of the Saturn 5 rocket sitting on the launch pad, the crowds who came to Florida to watch the launch, the sound of take-off and the beautiful, insistent score by Matt Morton that doesn’t intrude but blends beautifully with the overall sound design by Eric Milano and the superb film editing by Todd Douglas Miller.

Unsurprisingly, this movie won the editing award and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize (documentary) at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and I have no doubt it will go on to earn further industry accolades. If you have an interest in the moon landing, space exploration, lived through the event or just an interest in modern history, this is a great film. See it on the largest screen you possibly can, (there is an IMAX version) preferably one with a very good sound system.

This superb film has taken archival footage and made it meaningful for new audiences half a century later, no mean feat! I found it stirring and incredibly uplifting but I left the cinema with a profound sense of sadness that my generation never followed through on the promise of truly going to the stars.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jen Hetherington
    Jul 17, 2019 @ 11:43:14

    Great review Debra!
    I was not quite 10 years old when this momentous event occurred, and our tiny school cohort all viewed the moon landing on my dear Aunty Claire’s black and white TV … there was a true sense of astonishment as we sat huddled, crossed-legged on her lounge room floor eating freshly buttered hot scones. My young mind registered that this was a very historic event, but I do recall an odd feeling of scepticism (though I didn’t know that word at the time!). ‘Was this really happening? Surely this must be a fictional production!?’… it seemed like science fiction to me, like watching ‘Dr Who’ or ‘Lost in Space’ – ‘… Danger Will Robinson…’. Also, I didn’t realise that all schools students were given the day off to witness the event !

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    • Debra Manskey
      Jul 17, 2019 @ 12:43:05

      I was 10 and completely obsessed with NASA and the space program – it was incredibly real for me! Apparently not all schools gave a day off. Friends of mine here in Tasmania sat huddled around little black and white screens in class!!!

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  2. Jen Hetherington
    Jul 17, 2019 @ 12:53:50

    There was no TV in my little country school, having the day off really did add to the sense of occasion. Our rural existence seemed so very far removed from anything profound and scientific … though I was fascinated and yearning to understand more.

    Liked by 1 person

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