Tuesday, November 17, 2020

DOC NYC Spotlight: Red Heaven

I’m excited to be covering DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, which presents its eleventh year, this time in a mostly online format, from November 11th-19th.

Red Heaven
Directed by Lauren DeFilippo and Katherine Gorringe
Ticket Information

There is much to be explored beyond our world, but because things are radically different without gravity and with other conditions in space and on other planets, there is considerable research that needs to be done in advance of sending actual people on the journey to discover it. Among the training required by astronauts is the simulation of conditions similar to what they will experience once they have left Earth. In the case of a manned mission to Mars, the duration and intensity of that trip must be factored in and tested to determine whether humanity is indeed ready for such an immense undertaking.

Six individuals, all of whom are not astronauts, are selected to be part of a yearlong experiment in which they will experience conditions designed to mimic life on Mars. In Hawai’i, they enter a station where they will live and keep meticulous records of what happens. They maintain journals and complete countless surveys about what they are doing and feeling. Aware of the duration of their mission, they do what they must to maintain their sanity and come to important realizations about what it’s like to be in isolation with other people.

This film’s world premiere at DOC NYC surely has an added relevance that wasn’t intended when cameras were given to the participants at the beginning of this process. Much of what is deduced about spending uninterrupted time with the same people has been felt by those who have been largely quarantining and remaining at home over the course of most of this year. Not getting fresh air and pretending to be on another planet have additional psychological effects, to be sure, but the overall conclusions are likely similar to what many worldwide have come to believe about living on this planet in its current state.

This documentary is made up of interviews with each of the participants in which they share their observations and frustrations, which are both informative and often humorous. There is definitely comedy to be found in the way that each of them drive each other crazy and are more attuned to the seemingly insignificant actions of their colleagues. More serious historical analysis provides additional context to the effects of spending time away from the events of the world, and the data gleaned here – which is still being studied – can be of tremendous help for much more than otherworldly exploration.


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