What is the best documentary about astronauts

In the cinema on the moon: the documentary "Apollo 11"

Wherever you get the chance, watch this movie in an IMAX theater. Or at least on a big cinema screen. Because "Apollo 11" relies entirely on the power of images - and sounds. Director Todd Douglas Miller and his team have opted for an unusual concept for their documentary: They dispense with any commentary, overvoice, interviews or sequences.

"Apollo 11" only uses original film material, chronologically assembled, with the appropriate audio accompaniment: the original sounds of the historical space mission from the Apollo capsule and the NASA headquarters.

Director Miller: Experience from space and prehistoric times

"Apollo 11" is something like the "official" film for the anniversary. The American news broadcaster CNN commissioned director Miller three years ago to stage the film on the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. Miller was just in the post-production of his short film "Apollo 17" about NASA's last moon landing. The director had previously completed his spectacular dinosaur documentary "Dinosaur 13". So he seemed the right man for big jobs.

Neil Armstrong: the first man on the moon

If you look at the finished film on the big screen, it's a bit as if time has stood still. Of course, very few people have seen the preparations and the work behind the scenes as closely as the film presents them now. Most of the time, on July 20, 1969, they only saw the slightly blurry black and white photos of Neil Armstrong's legendary first step on the moon.

In "Apollo 11" the audience is there up close

The film shows the days immediately before the launch vehicle with the Apollo 11 capsule. It shows the work of hundreds of technicians in the NASA control centers, the preparations that ultimately led to the launch. The viewer experiences the last hours before the start of the three astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins at first hand. He is there when the three spacesuits and helmets are put on and receive final instructions from the technical staff on the way. How they take the elevator to the capsule and squeeze into their narrow seats.

The final touches shortly before take-off: Technicians help Neil Armstrong into his spacesuit

Although there have already been a few documentaries about the Apollo 11 mission, feature films have thickened the successful and failed moon landing missions in a dramaturgical way (most recently impressively "First Man" / 2018). From the very beginning, cinema history made a spectacular excursion to the moon with the French pioneer Georges Méliès ("A Journey to the Moon" / 1902).

The film "Apollo 11": 70mm to the moon

"Apollo 11" by Todd Douglas Miller adds something new to the historical events. The digital age made it possible. Miller and his helpers buried themselves in the archives and brought to light everything that was still slumbering there and has so far hardly or never been shown to a larger audience. The greatest treasure: previously unreleased 70mm material. This was polished to a high gloss with the help of the latest digital processing methods. In addition, there were 11,000 hours of audio material.

The launch vehicle with the Apollo 11 capsule takes off

"Experience the moon landing as if you were there yourself." The rental company uses this slogan to advertise "Apollo 11" - and that is actually a little bit true. The first scene of the film is already impressive: huge wheels on which the launcher is mounted move infinitely slowly to the launch terminal on Cape Canaveral. In its size, its slowness, its grandeur, it is overwhelming.

The first moon landing became a media event worldwide

A few kilometers away, thousands of people have gathered with their cars and caravans. There is a mood like at a big open-air rock concert. Families, men, women, children, space fans - they all want to experience the start of the Apollo mission live. The film captures this with impressive shots from the helicopter perspective.

Spectators watch the action from a distance

And so it continues. Until the rocket launches. Finally to the moon. The original recordings are of course sparse - the flight, for example, is shown with short animated scenes, the filmmaker's only concession to classic documentary films. These cinematic gaps are filled with sequences from the control center. Hundreds of specialists sit there in front of their computers, evaluating, recalculating trajectories, planning the next steps - and smoking. Perhaps this small, unimportant detail reminds the viewer most strongly that this is about an event from 1969. Back then everyone smoked - but everyone really smoked.

"Apollo 11" shines with brilliant colors

But the most amazing thing is the brilliant colors of the film. The moon landing is remembered in black and white - and of course the sequences of the first steps and the astronauts' stay on the moon can still only be seen that way. Everything else, on the other hand, shines in color, impressively sharp, rich in contrast, intensely colored. Digital processing makes it possible.

In the film "Apollo 11", the viewer is always very close to the protagonists

"The Apollo 11 mission is one of the greatest achievements in human history - hundreds of thousands of people, tens of thousands of companies and companies, all of them focused on one goal at the time, to bring people to another world," enthuses director Miller about the pioneering spirit of the time . He captured it in his film. He was helped above all by the achievements of the digital age, of which hardly anyone knew anything back then, in 1969.

After the world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, the film will be released in cinemas worldwide on June 27, 2019. The start of Germany is scheduled for July 7th. "Apollo 11" is occasionally shown in IMAX movie theaters (partly in a shorter version).