Apollo 11 – film at Cinema City Norwich

Cinema City, Norwich, Sunday morning July 10th, 50 years since men walked on the moon, Michael and I sat on the edge of our seats watching Apollo 11 the film, not a moment of meander away from the 2 hours film, we were electrified – yet we all knew what was going to happen and how it ended.  How did this happen?

It was in our lives. Aged 12 my mother took me outside to our pocket handkerchief back garden in Quebec Road, East Dereham, Norfolk, England, Europe, the world, and pointed up to the moon, and said, ‘There are men up there.’

The film opened with giant machinery, (reminding me of Avatar), Caterpillar tracks as large as towerblocks, men like ants moving between. They were  moving the rocket clasped in it’s support  to the take off at Kenedy Space Centre, Merritt Island. From Kevin Fong, (First Light, Lowestoft speaker) I remembered that 90% of this massive machine would eventually be discharged 90% of it built for fuel and the way of burning it and all that would come back was a small capsule.

The flash backs were intense and minimal. Of course, the catapult, Kenedy’s 61 speech, out of the cold war and the 1957 Soviet Union Sputnik1, out of which NASA formed: ‘I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.’ Brief photographic biographies of the 3 men, Armstrong (37), Aldrin (39) and Collins, their wives and families. The rare women in the film!

July 16th – that’s Tuesday this week –  we follow the journey of the astronauts to the lift up to the top into the rocket capsule ‘The burden they carry on behalf of all mankind’ . Men, all men. Men around a desk making executive decisions,  with piles of paper in front of them. Men rows and rows of them, the reserve team behind the active team in front of screens.

The people gathering, overnight in their campers, their 1960’s cars, glasses, binoculars, kids sleeping. Women and girls now more balanced with men. Nicely mixed.

Lift off. Burners, power thrust. All remarkably slow as the flame intensified, and up it went into the blue sky of a July day.

Three teams, Green team, white team and black team. We start with the green.

First separation. What happens to all that is disgarded? ‘Its rotating like a revolving restaurant’ one of the astronauts says. (Yes it was the time of revolving restaurants the Post Office tower was 1966)

Double orbit of earth before ‘Burn for the Moon’. The first images of earth from space begin appearing. Meanwhile back on earth, Vietnam war continues.

Close to the moon the second separation, the Eagle from Columbia capsule. Mike Collins circles on his own. Moon landing intense. Armstrongs decision to change the landing position to avoid the crater. The count down of fuel and feet to the surface, tight and we watch as the figures almost run out. Edge of seat stuff. ‘The Eagle has landed’. Armstrong’s heart rate 157!’ Buz had taken off his heart monitor – ‘You’ll know if i’m no longer breathing’, and he kept it off throughout.

Moon walk. Gathering of moon surface rock. Amazement at the texture. Two hours out.

Nixon speaks to them, and is patched in. For every American, this has to be the proudest day of our lives…. Because of what you have done, the heavens have become a part of man’s world. Armstrong responds: Thank you, Mr. President. It’s a great honor and privilege for us to be here, representing not only the United States, but men of peace of all nations, and with interest and curiosity, and men with a vision for the future.

The Black team took over as Eagle reunited with Columbia. Burn for the Earth (it was a beautiful burn’) No matter where you travel it’s nice to come home.


Flags and cigars. 18 day quarantine.

It was a brilliant documentary seemlessly combining original footage, doing nothing more than reliving the days. No interviews, no change, a fly on the wall as it was.

I’ll leave the last word to the The Guardian: ‘The film’s emotional power, however, comes not in the documentation of astronauts in space (though that is, of course, undeniably arresting, even half a century on), but in the absolutely incredible footage of the crowds who watched the launch from Earth. Miller’s team meticulously restored wide-lens footage, taken by Nasa’s team on the morning of 16 July, of the nearly 1 million people who gathered on the shores of Florida to watch the take-off; the result is a luminous portal into another, more bouffanted America, one far away, with its old cars and outdated Penney’s logo, but with familiar parking lot parties.



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