Damien Chazelle’s 1969 moon landing drama and Neill Armstrong biopic “First Man” has found itself caught up in an unexpected controversy – and it’s all to do with the American flag.
The feature premiered at the Venice Film Festival a few days ago, the only place to screen it so far, with the movie scoring excellent reviews across the board. One common bit of praise in those reviews is that the film doesn’t go for the easy appeal of patriotic fervor, preferring instead to focus on the people involved themselves than the politics of the space race.
That includes not filming a scene with the planting of the U.S. flag on the moon (though the film does show it already planted on the surface). Several U.S. conservative pundits and outlets have now slammed the film and called it both unpatriotic and even “anti-American” even as those making the claims haven’t seen the movie as yet. One editor called it a “foolish and pernicious falsification of history,” while senator Marco Rubio lebelled it “total lunacy” on Twitter, and don’t get started on the Fox & Friends gang’s dislike.
Those involved in the film are now hitting back. Armstrong’s sons Rick Armstrong and Mark Armstrong released a statement jointly with author James R. Hansen on Friday saying: “We do not feel this movie is anti-American in the slightest. Quite the opposite. But don’t take our word for it. We’d encourage everyone to go see this remarkable film and see for themselves.”
The film’s star Ryan Gosling, who plays Neill Armstrong, says: “I think this was widely regarded in the end as a human achievement [and] that’s how we chose to view it. I also think Neil was extremely humble, as were many of these astronauts, and time and time again he deferred the focus from himself to the 400,000 people who made the mission possible.”
Chazelle himself says: “I wanted the primary focus in that scene to be on Neil’s solitary moments on the moon… This was a feat beyond imagination; it was truly a giant leap for mankind. This film is about one of the most extraordinary accomplishments not only in American history, but in human history. My hope is that by digging under the surface and humanizing the icon, we can better understand just how difficult, audacious and heroic this moment really was.”
“First Man” is slated to hit U.S. cinemas on October 12th.