| John Moret, film programmer |
The way I see it, the intersection of space travel and cinema is one of the defining elements of the 20th Century. These technologies changed our view of ourselves and expanded our imagination beyond our planet. They came to being alongside the fallout of the Industrial Revolution—the fall of the Russian and Ottoman Empires, the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the warming of the oceans.
Now, at the dawn of the 21st century, the chemical processes and machinery of film photography and projection is being replaced by sleek digital technologies. The human interaction with film—receiving cans, building up reels, inspecting and re-splicing film, threading through a projector, adjusting focus—is now a process of downloading a file and pushing play. NASA’s innovation, once a project of the imagination and human endeavor, is now a product of corporate enterprise. In the past, people were sent in a rocket with very little digital support—only propulsion and physical force. The Golden Record, an astounding, impressionistic and experimental message from Earth, was sent alongside Voyager into the outer reaches of our galaxy in an artistic attempt to reach beyond our solar system. But also to unite us. Space is now an extension of our wars (ie: Space Force), our industry (the Moon Mining Company), and our tourism (SpaceX).
I understand this portrait is too simplistic. Cinema, for good and bad, was largely pushed forward by profits. NASA, for all its beauty, was a military product of a bitter Cold War that brought civilization to the brink of extinction. However, these two innovations of the 20th century have broadened and enlightened one another, and the higher ideals underneath can serve as a guiding path for the future.
The inspiration for this series came more than five years ago. I learned my wife was pregnant with twins and I mourned the future of their inherited world. Around that time, I stumbled across Silent Running for the first time. The film presents a bleak and imaginative vision of the future, which depicts humanity no longer in need of our planet’s forests and wildernesses. Afterwards, I sought out and rewatched every space film I could find. Whether deeply optimistic or dripping with cynicism, when films imagine space travel, they tap into human experiences that take us outside of ourselves, and our home, to look at our world from the outside. Anticipating the anniversary of the moon landing in 2019, we held back on booking certain films, keeping our eyes open for rare prints and searching continually for others, hoping that it would all come together. We are very proud to present our summer-long series made up of 25 films depicting space adventure, space madness, space opera and space horror— Magnificent Desolation.
Edited by Michelle Baroody and Caitlyn Dibble
Magnificent Desolation, a summer long celebration of the moon landing, begins today, Sunday June 2, with Forbidden Planet. Head to the website for more info on the series.