Taking one giant leap...
This July, we commemorate 50 years since the Moon landing with a special season of films curated by our Cinema Programme Coordinator, Melissa Gueneau.
Ahead of her season next month, Melissa tells us a bit about her fascination with the final frontier.
The first job I ever wanted to do when I was a child was be an astronaut. Though I quickly found out I had no talent in any of the scientific fields, I remained deeply fascinated with all things space.
Thankfully, cinema was there to quench my thirst for stories of men and women exploring the depths of space for better or, mostly, for worse. Our obsession with what may lie in the darkness surrounding the Earth gave us some of the best science fiction stories ever written and filmed, as well as countless stories for children about the immensity of space.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing, I was interested in showcasing some of the films that directly emanated from our aspiration to explore the Moon, but also address the political context that surrounded what remains one of mankind’s greatest achievements.
We long wondered what may actually be on the Moon. Perhaps it was filled with treasures, jewels and valuable materials – like cheese, as per Wallace and Gromit’s A Grand Day Out. Perhaps it was home to small adorable creatures like the Clangers. Perhaps we’d find out someone had already been there as in First Men in the Moon.
The idea of exploring space also made us look deep into human nature. How would we behave if we encountered a new species as in A Trip to the Moon? How would we cope with what we would find there? The race to the Moon was born out of a pure and generalised state of paranoia stemmed from the Cold War. We would trust no one and use all means necessary, no matter how unethical, to get what we want, as in Duncan Jones’s Moon. We would, also, question everything. What if we had never been to the Moon? What if Kubrick made it all up for the US government? What if 2001: A Space Odyssey was a blueprint to the biggest hoax ever fabricated?
On 16 July 1969, Neil Armstrong, Edwynn “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins got on board the Apollo 11 and launched to the Moon. Four days later, Armstrong would be the first man to ever set foot on lunar soil. My dad and his friends, barely 10 years old at the time, “would go outside and look at the Moon and try to spot the astronauts walking on it.” Some years later, he would recount those stories to me, and I would dream to be an astronaut myself, just like the young girl in One Small Step.
Today, we know enough about the Moon to not fear what it may hide. Although we do still worry someone might want to steal it, as in Despicable Me.
We do also, have tons of video and audio footage from the Apollo 11 mission to allow us to relive this incredible moment in history, and make us feel like we were a part of it too.
Our season commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing runs across July, including:
Apollo 11 – From Friday 28 June
A Trip to the Moon – A Collection of Short Films – Saturday 6 July
Despicable Me – Saturday 13 July
Armstrong – Saturday 20 July
First Men in the Moon – Sunday 21 July
2001: A Space Odyssey – Sunday 21 July
Moon – Wednesday 24 July