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Monday, 29 November 1999 19:00
Local opening date: 9/28/2007
Reviewed by Diane Carson
Determined to beat the Russians to the Moon, on May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy challenged the nation to, "put a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth by the end of the decade." At this point, the U.S. had successfully completed exactly one suborbital flight for a total of 15 minutes. But in April, 1961, a Russian Cosmonaut orbited the Earth, and the race ensued. In the Shadow of the Moon chronicles the American space effort through interviews with astronauts from every Apollo mission to the Moon-a who's who of brilliant, personable individuals: Buzz Aldrin, Jim Lovell, Gene Cernan, Alan Bean, and more. Without any voiceover narration, they directly address the camera with their recollections illustrated by previously unseen, breathtaking NASA footage remastered for this documentary. In the greatest irony, the team behind this important historical record is entirely British, including director David Sington.
Facing the camera in extreme close-ups, the astronauts remember the nine missions to the Moon between 1968 and 1972 during which time a dozen men walked on the Moon. Distinctive and engaging, the astronauts relate revealing insights about each other through, at times, quite amusing anecdotes. But the dramatic testimony steals the stage and evokes long-forgotten awe: the realization that NASA accomplished these missions with computer technology less than now found in the average cell phone. Also striking is television footage from around the world, Walter Cronkite clearly overcome with Apollo 11's first Moon landing, and the connections with the Vietnam War, race protests, and the women's movement. However, no commentary addresses the lack of women or minorities.

In the Shadow of the Moon
won the World Cinema Audience Award at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Telling an intriguing, extraordinary story with such charismatic astronauts, it's easy to see why. Above all it reminds us of the accomplishments when we undertook scientific challenges and triumphed. At area theatres.

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