Friday, March 15, 2019

SXSW with Abe: Apollo 11

I’m excited to be attending the film festival at South by Southwest for the second time, and I’ll be posting reviews throughout the week as I see as many movies as possible!

Apollo 11
Directed by Todd Douglas Miller
Festival Favorites

The moment man first set foot on the moon was an incredible development watched by millions around the world. Neil Armstrong’s famous line, “that’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” has been memorialized as one of the most impactful quotes of all time. Director Damien Chazelle offered a look at the lengthy process undertaken by NASA and the astronauts involved to make the daring journey with last year’s “First Man,” which didn’t land as triumphantly as expected but still impressed with its technical achievements. Now comes an even more astonishing representation: the entire trip as captured by cameras while was it happening.

Any history leading up to the launch of Apollo 11 is addressed only briefly in news announcements that preface the historic mission which will finally attempt to have man walk on the moon. Tremendous crowds gather to watch it take off, and multiple teams stand by to take over during the course of the lengthy flight to assist the astronauts enter and disengage from the orbits of the Earth and the moon. Once in space, astronauts Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins share their feed with the eyes of the world, leading right up to the pivotal descent and monumental first walk.

It is truly unbelievable to see just how much footage was captured in July 1969 when this mission actually took place, and even more mind-boggling that a film can be constructed entirely of the recordings of many different cameras. This feels like minute-by-minute coverage, fast-forwarding only when the astronauts go to sleep or are out of contact, which is when those watching had to disengage as well, as if it had been prepared directly for editing into this film rather than put together decades later. It feels like a living, breathing piece of history that, if not for the clothes and style, could easily be happening right now.

This is an inarguably impressive technical feat, with credit deserved most for the vision of making this film and the expert skill with which it is assembled. Those seeking new knowledge about this moon landing will experience a deep dive that allows them to essentially ride along with the astronauts and breathe heavily with those back on the ground guiding and watching them. The footage is aided by illustrations and reconstructions that explain part of the process, and this documentary notably features no outside commentary or guiding narration, instead fully involved in the events being portrayed and relayed on screen.


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