Apollo 11: The Documentary

Director, Todd Douglas Miller, and a team of editors, historians, and government archivists have dug deep into the NASA and broadcast news vaults, finding angles and audio that in some cases no one has seen or heard in 50 years, if at all.

Given that there have been multiple documentaries and dramatizations of the Apollo project— from For All Mankind to From The Earth To The Moon to First Man —even NASA nerds may wonder whether the world needed another. But beyond the wealth of rare footage in Apollo 11, it’s remarkable how well the director, Todd Douglas Miller, and his crew have shaped it.

There are no new interviews in Apollo 11, no new narration, and only a minimum of onscreen text — mainly to identify who’s who, and to provide some basic numerical data about time, distances, and astronaut vital signs. The audio in the film mostly comes from the original news coverage and the Mission Control tapes. The images (aside from some retro animation) come from the aforementioned archives, and look startlingly pristine.

For the most part, Apollo 11 just lets 1969’s pictures and sound tell the story. This movie about one of that year’s biggest events looks like it was made in 1969, when the likes of D.A. Pennebaker, Frederick Wiseman, Charlotte Zwerin, and the Maysles brothers popularized a new kind of “fly on the wall” documentary filmmaking, more novelistic and less explanatory. This is what magazine and newspaper reporters at the time called “the new journalism,” reimagined as cinema.

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