Thursday, September 20, 2007

viff07: in the shadow of the moon

Fri28 13:00 G7 / Sun30 19:00 G7 (166)
UK, 2006, 100 min, 35mm

An exhaustive troll through the archives on the part of director David Sington and his team has resulted in this amazing documentary about that special period between 1968 and 1972, when the eyes of the world were on NASA's space program and its Apollo moonshots. Featuring archival film literally "scratched with moon dust" (in the words of the director) and interviews with surviving astronauts from the period--all of whom come across as eloquent, wise, funny and all too human-- makes this a must-see for all interested in history, space travel or the larger questions about the quest for humankind to go beyond the limits of endurance and physical boundaries.

"The excitement, majesty and extraordinary human accomplishment of the American lunar program of the 60s and early 70s is rousingly captured in In the Shadow of the Moon. Deftly mixing a treasure trove of archival footage with engaging commentaries of surviving astronauts from all nine Apollo moonshots, this British production will bring it all back for those with first-hand memories of the time, while providing a stimulating primer for younger generations... [T]echnically, the film possesses a visual and audio vibrancy that allows it to play well today. Producers went back to the original NASA film cans, found some material never used before and remastered everything, meaning that the mostly colour footage looks as good as new..."--Todd McCarthy, Variety

Christianity Today Movies was, well, over the moon, giving the space-jockey saga the full four stars;
"For all their courage and scientific acumen, the astronauts of Apollo fumble with and in due course abandon using technical jargon to describe their other-worldly experiences. Ultimately, rationality cannot illuminate what is a metaphysical voyage of discovery. So it should come as no surprise that, in Shadow's final moments, the moonwalkers' speech alters into something far more elegiac, whimsical and fundamentally spiritual. They are the first to say that they are nothing special—blessed men who just happened to be in the right place at the right time. But to a man, they have been changed. They exude a modest, philosophical side that comes, one assumes, from having left our world and viewed it, in all of its fragility, from afar.

Some speak of our connectedness to the universe, others the need to protect and cherish the environment. Several of the astronauts describe a categorical belief in God and his sacred, creative hand in fashioning the cosmos. Jim Lovell, Frank Borman, and William Anders, aboard Apollo 8 on Christmas Eve, 1968, transmit a message in what was the most watched television broadcast to date: "For all the people on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you: 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth … '" Charlie Duke recounts returning to Earth after his mission, attending Bible studies and soon after giving his life over to Christ. "My walk on the moon lasted three days," he says, "My walk with God will last forever."

British director David Sington has crafted an awe-inspiring film suffused with reverence and wonder. In the Shadow of the Moon is one of those rare films with the power to coax tears and goosebumps from even the most jaded viewer. Its scope is so grand, it subject so inspirational, that audiences can't help but leave the theater staggered by the monumental human achievement it recounts.

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