A man sips a beer, eyeing the horizon from a Florida parking lot. Nasa techs sit in a lobby as headlines blare of Ted Kennedy’s car crash in Chappaquiddick. They’re two of the many striking details – ordinary, recognizable moments amid one of humankind’s most extraordinary achievements – restored to full vitality in Apollo 11, an all-primary source documentary, meticulously restored. The 93-minute documentary, released for a limited time in the US on Imax before a wider release, and to be shown in museums later this year, captures the first moon mission and its spectators in the visceral, wide-lens color of cinema epics – an achievement in historical preservation that hinged on the discovery of long-unopened boxes idling in archives.
Last month, the film premiered to enthused acclaim at Sundance, following on from a banner year for documentaries from the recently Oscar-anointed Free Solo to fellow box office hits RBG, Three Identical Strangers and Won’t You Be My Neighbor. Apollo 11 is set to continue the trend but it is distinguished by its stark commitment to the historical record: the film is made up entirely of restored footage and audio from the historic Apollo 11 mission in July 1969.
Cry - Years - Record - Apollo - Analog
It’s a far cry from three years ago, when much of the record from Apollo 11 remained analog or boxed away. At the time, director Todd Douglas Miller, fresh off The Last Steps, a short about Apollo 17, wasn’t looking to dive back into the heavily mythologized missions to the moon. When Stephen Slater, a Britain-based independent archivist who has peerlessly synced existing 16mm Mission Control footage with separate audio recordings, approached Miller about creating a project to honor Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary this year, Miller balked. “I was like, ‘No. Not happening. I’m all spaced out right now,’” he said to the...
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