Todd Douglas Miller's film takes viewers inside historic 1969 moon mission as it unfolded
A documentary about the historic Apollo 11 moon mission is about to launch on IMAX screens.
Theatrical distributor NEON and IMAX announced Todd Douglas Miller's film will play for a week on the super-sized format beginning March 1. This year marks the 50th anniversary of NASA's extraordinary undertaking, which saw astronaut Neil Armstrong become the first human to set foot on the lunar surface, followed quickly by his colleague Buzz Aldrin. Michael Collins piloted the command module on Apollo 11, orbiting the moon as Armstrong and Aldrin set foot on it.
Apollo 11 was crafted from a newly discovered trove of 65mm footage, and more than 11,000 hours of uncatalogued audio recordings.
Apollo 11, which premiered last month at the Sundance Film Festival, will be remastered for the IMAX format.
"With some of the most spectacular and rarest behind-the-scenes space footage captured from the first moon landing," NEON and IMAX said of the film, "it is a cinematic event 50 years in the making that was designed for IMAX, the movie experience that has been bringing audiences to space for decades."
The film allows viewers to relive the mission as it unfolded in July 1969 -- an endeavor unprecedented in human history, fraught with risk. A myriad of cameras and audio feeds take us moment by moment through each key step, from blastoff, to orbiting the moon, the nerve-racking attempt to touch down on the moon before the lunar module ran out of fuel, and the journey home.
"Constructed entirely from archival materials and eschewing talking heads, Apollo 11 captures the enormity of the event by giving audiences of all ages the direct experience of being there," NEON and IMAX said in a statement. "When John F. Kennedy pledged in 1962 to put Americans on the moon by the end of the decade, he described it as a bold act of faith and vision. Apollo 11 bears witness to the culmination of that pledge, when America and the world came together in an extraordinary act of unity and resolve, to achieve one of the greatest and most complex feats in human history."
Apollo 11 contains material that has never been seen before.
"Miller and team were working closely with NASA and the National Archives (NARA) to locate all existing Apollo 11 footage when NARA staff members made a startling discovery that changed the course of the project: an unprocessed collection of 65mm large format footage, never before seen by the public, containing stunning shots of the launch, the inside of Mission Control, and recovery and post-mission activities," NEON and IMAX said in their joint statement. "The footage was so pristine and the find so significant that the project evolved beyond filmmaking into one of film curation and historic preservation."
"Miller’s film is a stunning achievement in filmmaking,” remarked Megan Colligan, president of IMAX Entertainment. “The film is immersive, crisp and clear. Audiences can palpably feel the tension, immense pride and overwhelming joy of the team that came together to make the impossible possible. We at IMAX couldn’t be happier to be partnering with NEON in the release of Apollo 11."
NEON will release Apollo 11 on non-IMAX screens later in 2019. CNN will air the documentary on television.
Pharrell Williams, Patti LaBelle, Smokey Robinson among stars who appear in film from Oscar-winning director
Tribeca is continuing a festival tradition of opening the event with a documentary, awarding the distinction this year to The Apollo, directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams.
The world premiere will be held at the Apollo Theater itself on April 24, kicking off the festival that runs until May 5. The venue on West 125th Street in Harlem has welcomed some of the greatest talents in the history of entertainment, from Duke Ellington to Sam Cooke, Richard Pryor, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Holly, Dave Brubeck, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown and The Jackson 5, among many others.
[The Apollo] celebrates the historic New York cultural landmark where musical legends were made.
The Apollo features interviews with renowned performers including Pharrell Williams, Patti LaBelle and Smokey Robinson. It will air later this year on HBO.
"The documentary covers the rich history of the storied performance space over its 85 years and follows a new production of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me as it comes to the theater’s grand stage," Tribeca noted in a press release. "The creation of this vibrant multi-media stage show frames the way in which The Apollo explores the current struggle of black lives in America, the role that art plays in that struggle, and the broad range of African-American achievement that the Apollo Theater represents."
“The Apollo is about so much more than just music, it’s about how we used music and art to lift ourselves out of oppression," Williams said in a statement. "The story of the Apollo is the story of the evolution of black American identity and how it grew to become the defining cultural movement of our time. I was fortunate to make my first film with HBO and I am thrilled to be coming back home with The Apollo. Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, at the Apollo Theater in Harlem is a dream come true.”
“The Apollo Theater is a symbol of the creative spirit of New York and beyond, and I’m very happy that we’re kicking off our 18th Festival celebrating it with this documentary from Roger Ross Williams,” Tribeca co-founder Robert De Niro said in a statement.
“The Apollo gives audiences an inside look at the major role this institution has played for the past 85 years," commented Jane Rosenthal, co-founder and CEO of Tribeca. "It’s seen the emergence of everything from jazz to R&B to soul and gospel — all quintessential American music genres — and this is the time to remind people of our nation’s rich history."
Macedonian documentary tells story of remarkable woman who tends to bees and her ailing mother
Film distribution company NEON has picked up its fifth title from the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
In a statement on Monday, NEON announced it has acquired North American rights to Honeyland, the documentary out of Macedonia that won the Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema Documentary. The film directed by Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska won two additional awards at Sundance, including a Special Jury Prize for Impact for Change, along with a Special Jury Prize for Cinematography, recognizing the camera work of Samir Ljuma and Fejmi Daut.
Thank you, NEON, for the opportunity to bring Honeyland to audiences the way we always wanted it to be seen.
"We are so proud of the final film, and there is no better way to get immersed in it than to experience it on the big screen," Stefanov and Kotevska said in a statement. "Thank you, NEON, for the opportunity to bring Honeyland to audiences the way we always wanted it to be seen.”
Honeyland unspools in a tiny village in Macedonia where a woman named Hatidze Muratova raises bee colonies, selling a portion of the premium honey at market. When an itinerant family moves in next door, they take a shine to the bee business, but their lack of understanding of how to sustain a colony threatens to ruin Hatidze's beekeeping activities.
Hatidze not only tends to her bees, but to her seriously ill mother. They live in the most spartan conditions imaginable, in not much more than a hut with no electricity. Hatidze's deeply humane nature shines through, and the film also offers an environmental message about the paramount importance of sustainability.
Submarine brokered the Honeyland deal. NEON is on a hot streak with documentaries, acquiring Three Identical Strangers at Sundance last year. The film went on to make $12.3 million in theatrical release in North America. The company has likewise bought theatrical rights to Amazing Grace, the documentary about Aretha Franklin's recording of a live gospel in 1972. That is expected to hit theaters in March.
NEON is also behind two other docs that premiered at Sundance, Todd Douglas Miller’s Apollo 11 and John Chester’s The Biggest Little Farm. At the festival it acquired several scripted films as well, including the thriller Monos and the horror film The Lodge.
The company noted Honeyland "marks NEON’s fifth acquisition out of Sundance, with the company landing more films than any other key player at Sundance this year."
Peter Jackson's World War I documentary becomes latest nonfiction breakout hit
Nonfiction films are off to a brisk start at the box office in 2019, following a stellar year in 2018.
Peter Jackson's documentary They Shall Not Grow Old, which gives new life to World War I footage through 3D and colorization, made an impressive $1.7 million over the weekend, according to audience measurement firm comScore.
The film easily claimed the number one spot among documentaries in theatrical release, and pushed its cume to $13.6 million after eight weeks of release, comScore reported. They Shall Not Grow Old is now the fourth most popular documentary released in 2018, following Won't You Be My Neighbor? ($22.8 million), Free Solo $15.9 million), and RBG ($14 million).
Free Solo. the Oscar-nominated documentary about Alex Honnold, who climbed Yosemite's forbidding El Capitan rock race without ropes, finished in second place over the weekend, tallying $324,597. After 20 weeks of release, the film's cume stands at $15,933,605, according to comScore.
Free Solo, directed by E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, played at 153 locations, versus 827 for They Shall Not Grow Old.
Free Solo's win may boost its fortunes at Academy Awards
The blockbuster documentary Free Solo has notched another victory heading into the Academy Awards, now less than two weeks away.
The film by E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin won the BAFTA Award for Best Documentary on Saturday in a ceremony at London's Royal Albert Hall. The triumph came over one of Free Solo's rivals at the Oscars, RBG, directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen. The other BAFTA contenders included McQueen, directed by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui; They Shall Not Grow Old, the 3D World War I documentary directed by Peter Jackson, and Three Identical Strangers from director Tim Wardle.
RBG's Cohen and West were gracious towards Free Solo's directors, tweeting their congratulations on the BAFTA win.
On Sunday night the locus of awards giving shifted to Los Angeles, for the 61st Annual Grammy Awards. Quincy, the documentary about the legendary Quincy Jones directed by his daughter Rashida Jones and Alan Hicks, won Best Music Film.
"The whole purpose of us wanting to make the film was really to give people the feeling of hanging out with my dad, like the kind of intimate hang that I personally want you to have. And, obviously, also track his incredible life and career," Rashida Jones told Nonfictionfilm.com.
Hicks added, "We wanted to make the definitive movie about Quincy and have it be in a length that is digestible for one sitting. In the next hundred years from now somebody could make a huge, long series about Quincy's life, like a 10-20 part series. But what we had was Quincy here, right now, to be celebrated and we can spend time with him and get to know him as a man."
Quincy won the Grammy over a field that included Life in 12 Bars, a documentary about Eric Clapton; Whitney, Kevin Macdonald's doc about Whitney Houston; Itzhak, a film about violinist Itzhak Perlman, and The King, director Eugene Jarecki's exploration of the cultural significance and legacy of Elvis Presley.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.