For All Mankind (1989)

2009 #42
Al Reinert | 77 mins | TV (HD)

For All MankindFor All Mankind tells the story of NASA’s Apollo missions to the Moon using only NASA’s own footage of the real missions.

It’s not a documentary in the sense that most people perceive the form — i.e. a highly realistic presentation of the facts — but instead something a little more interpretive, aiming to recreate the feeling and experience of travelling to the moon, not the hard facts of who went when and how it was done. As such it is both beautiful and artistic, featuring stunning photography that has been sensitively edited and scored.

In this regard, it makes In the Shadow of the Moon look like a Hollywood remake. While they follow the same tack — telling the tale of the Moon missions with just the testimony of the astronauts, treating it as one big mission rather than taking them all in strict chronological order — For All Mankind does it with a greater sense of artistry. Where Shadow feels like a typical documentary, with talking heads and onscreen identification of who’s speaking, Mankind just uses original footage and astronaut’s narration, never bothering to identify the speaker. Both styles have their place, and Shadow adds a great deal to the story with its retrospective comments by the astronauts, but the glorious footage and skilled editing of Mankind — and the added wonder of seeing it in HD, it must be said — leaves one with a sense of awe that isn’t as present in the more informative Shadow.

These two films make an excellent pair then, but For All Mankind’s beauty provides the superior experience.

5 out of 5

For All Mankind placed 5th on my list of The Ten Best Films I Saw For the First Time in 2009, which can be read in full here.

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