Others of my generation undoubtedly felt more excitement about fulfilling JFK’s pledge to put a man on the Moon by the end of the ‘60s (and more importantly, before the Commies got there). But now it seems like, for even the outer-space geeks, the thrill is gone. Maybe we’ve just had enough bangs, with the Challenger and Columbia disasters, to be content to have the US manned space program go out with a whimper. Or maybe we’re just feeling too pistol-whipped by the glacially slow economic recovery to see any rationale in trying to visit any more planets just now.
In any case, whenever August rolls around, some people always seem to take note of whatever anniversary it is of the first Moon landing, Apollo 11 (for the record, this year will be the 42nd), the high-water mark of the Space Race. That makes it a good time, I suppose, to be taking a second look at a 1971 feature-length documentary about that event that somehow got buried in its time, despite being slathered with critical praise and awards at venues like the Cannes Film Festival and the Whitney Museum of American Art. It’s titled Moonwalk One, and it’s going to have a special showing this Saturday, July 16 at 4 p.m. at the Rosendale Theatre to benefit the Rosendale Theatre Collective.
Moonwalk One took a visual and narrative approach that was a bit more adventurous than the typical news documentary of its time. Besides portraying the massive technological achievement of the Moon landing, the film tried to capture the mood and feel of people on Earth at the time when humans first walked on another world. While director Theo Kamecke himself sat in Launch Control with a NASA cameraman during takeoff, he instructed his crew at Cape Canaveral to capture reaction shots of the faces of the people watching the launch, instead of pointing their cameras at the spacecraft and its booster rockets, as was usual. Taking a leaf from the popularity of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, with its mysterious monolith hidden on the dark side of the Moon by who-knows-what intelligent visitors, he also shot footage of Stonehenge for the opening sequence of Moonwalk One.
Although well-received, the film only had limited theatrical release, and then quickly sank into obscurity. The original printing elements were lost by NASA or Technicolor; seemingly, all that survived were a few 16mm copies of an abridged version. Then, in 2007, a group of filmmakers was researching film footage known to have originated with Moonwalk One for a new film about the Apollo program. One of the producers tracked down Kamecke and discovered that the director still had the only 35mm print of the original film still in his possession. Over the next two years, this director’s cut was digitally restored and rereleased in time for the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11.
Today, Theo Kamecke is a Hudson Valley resident, and he will be present at the Rosendale Theatre this Saturday for a question-and answer session about the making of the film. The screening of Moonwalk One begins at 4 p.m. Tickets go for $10 general admission, $6 for children and seniors. It’s your chance to recapture a moment when “space: the final frontier” still beckoned to the youth of an America not yet jaded by technology and battered by financial hard times.