By Adam Ray Palmer
70 full seats in Cinema B and with what looked like the same amount of people scattered across the floor, all packed in to see one of the most highly-anticipated documentary film of the festival.
Apollo 11 premiered back in January at Sundance to favourable reviews, and so I couldn’t wait to get my space fix here at KVIFF.
Now, I don’t know about my readers here on Cineroom, but when a space documentary is released, I get all giddy to see what actually goes on behind the scenes. When it’s anything about the 1969 moon landing, it’s even more emphatic.
Todd Douglas Miller brings to the world ninety minutes of insight surrounding the Apollo 11 mission to the moon that has never been seen before. Miller produced, edited and directed the whole movie and has complete creative direction. He uses solely archival footage, including 70 mm film that was previously unreleased to the public. He also does not feature narration, interviews or modern recreations throughout – everything you see really did happen.
The documentary begins three hours before the launch and concludes on the release of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins back into the world after quarantine 27 days later. Over the ninety minutes, you see the travel to the moon, the landing and the return – but every bit of intricacy is certainly detailed.
The control room for the mission is an all phone-ringing and people-shushing kind of manic chamber that can only be described as being on a knife edge for nine days until the famous trio returned. The same cannot be said for the shuttle dwellers who have a serene landscape to look out to and absolute tranquillity. Literally a tale of two parallels, but it of course has highly-strung moments as the upmost of concentration is needed at all times.
The film quality is what really struck me. Miller's team used a post-production firm in to make high-resolution digital scans of all the available footage including over 11,000 hours of audio recordings and hundreds of hours of video. It’s a testament to Miller and his team’s dedication to get this footage brought to life and the output is absolutely astounding… out of this world you might say…
This movie comes a year after Damien Chazelle’s Hollywood re-telling of the events in 1969 (First Man), but don’t be put off that you think you have seen all this before. Chazelle’s offering is very much a picture of the man behind the space travel, rather than solely the mission itself.
Apollo 11, the documentary, is a phenomenal feat. The commitment from Miller shines through the movie and in just an hour and a half, you really feel like you went on journey with everyone. From the astronauts, to the control room, to the American audience and even the proud moments of the President as his famous and rousing speech concludes the film. An incredible achievement for mankind that will be told again and again.
Cineroom’s rating: 4 Stars
Apollo 11 is out now in the UK on a limited release – certificate PG