Damien Chazelle Addresses ‘First Man’ American Flag Controversy
My policy: See the movie first, then decide if there’s a reason to be mad about it. You can get pissed off about the lack of the American flag in First Man without watching it, but then if it turns out that the flag is in the movie, and the whole thing was a misunderstanding (or something even dumber) you might feel kind of silly.
Nonetheless, the Internet was Very Upset™ about Damien Chazelle’s First Man last week, when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival (where the extremely vast majority had not seen it). Chazelle’s film about the Apollo 11 mission doesn’t show the exact moment that Neil Armstrong plants the American flag on the surface of the moon (although the flag is seen onscreen) which through social media telephone became Chazelle not showing the flag at all, which became a whole kerfuffle, which necessitated an actual statement from the director about his intentions.
And here it is:
In First Man I show the American flag standing on the lunar surface, but the flag being physically planted into the surface is one of several moments of the Apollo 11 lunar EVA that I chose not to focus upon. To address the question of whether this was a political statement, the answer is no. My goal with this movie was to share with audiences the unseen, unknown aspects of America’s mission to the moon — particularly Neil Armstrong’s personal saga and what he may have been thinking and feeling during those famous few hours.
I wanted the primary focus in that scene to be on Neil’s solitary moments on the moon — his point of view as he first exited the LEM, his time spent at Little West Crater, the memories that may have crossed his mind during his lunar EVA. 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.
That makes perfect sense to me. Of course, I could still see the movie, and feel the scene doesn’t work, or maybe is a little frustrating given the historical record. But I will have actually seen the movie at that point. That’s the key.
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