‘Apollo 11’

Filmmakers have been making films about traveling to the moon since 1902’s “Le Voyage dans la lune” (“A Trip to the Moon”), directed by Georges Méliès, films that stretch the genre from comedy to romance to science fiction. After completing his documentary, “Dinosaur 13,” about the largest Tyrannosaurus rex fossil ever found, and fighting over its discovery with the U.S. Government, filmmaker Todd Douglas Miller lays down his camera and digs into the archives of NASA to unearth never-before-seen footage of man’s first step on the moon. In “Apollo 11” we see Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin make their historic landing. Old news? We’ve seen Hollywood’s version of “Jurassic Park” with dinosaurs chasing crazed scientists, their lost families and dinosaur lovers looking for cute little pets inside these monsters. But we had never seen the archeologist’s point of view during a real discovery of the bones and the politics around it. We’ve seen the romantic and heroic Hollywood versions of men flying to and returning from outer space, but we have not yet seen the real weight-lift of building this humongous machine that would help America plant its flags up there, while presidents made historic speeches praising a multibillion-dollar Apollo program.

While some may criticize the effort as fruitless — “What did they think they’d find up there?” — it wasn’t about the discovery. It was, and continues to be, all about the journey. It took roughly half a million technicians to build the Apollo 11 in order to land it on the moon on July 20, 1969. On that day people around the world stopped what they were doing, pulled out their beach blankets and their barbecue grills to gaze upward at the phenomenal accomplishment of man’s first step on that lunar sphere that had been, up to this point, reserved for the wonderment of mystics, poets and lovers.

In this film, you do not get any inside view of any of the characters; the main character is the rocket ship and the countdown from beginning to end. This is not a story begging the question, ‘what happens next?’ We all know. This is the story, much like the bones of a humongous dinosaur, dislodged, dusted off and reassembled from the archives of NASA, so we can gaze in wonderment once again at a major movement in the Industrial Age.

So if you have any interest in what has been stored away at the cost of your taxpaying dollars, here’s an excellent chance to see this awesome journey from the point of view of a clock, bringing back a lot of nostalgic tidbits in news announcements about the Vietnam War, speeches from Kennedy and Nixon, hairstyles, sideburns and even a country western song that might jar you out of time while watching. Watching in wonderment.

Check www.PlazaMAC.org for listings.

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