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Forum:Publications & Multimedia
Topic:"Space Tourists" documentary (Christian Frei)
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Lasv3Unfortunately not available on DVD (yet). But it is possible to subscribe for the notice when it is...
cspgFrom the Sundance 2010 Competition Films guide:
Space Tourists
DIRECTOR: Christian Frei
Switzerland, 2009, 98 min., color
Russian/Romanian/English with English subtitles

Anousheh Ansari has dreamt of going into outer space since she was a child. A number of years and $20 million later, with the help of the Russian space program, her dream is realized—Ansari becomes the first female space tourist. In recent years, a number of private citizens like Ansari have been willing to endure rigorous training in Star City, Kazakhstan, and part with significant funds to spend time aboard the International Space Station.

Director Christian Frei (The Giant Buddhas, Sundance Film Festival 2006) explores the impact of space tourism in the heavens and on Earth by adeptly weaving together multiple strands: Ansari’s joyous experience in orbit; the efforts of local villagers to claim black market rocket debris; the observations of photographer Jonas Bendiksen; and the training of the next space tourist in line. Space Tourists examines the intersections of human enterprise and commerce in the final frontier.

Sundance trailer and photo preview available at /Film

eurospaceI have seen Frei's "War Photographer". He is certainly an excellent documentary film maker with a very sensitive view on things and images. Expect an excellent movie that leaves you thoughtful. I would suppose Frei would be trying to get his movie through movie theatres first before releasing it on DVD.
issman1It's currently being showcased at the Sundance Film Festival. If it wins a prize then it can only bring the subject matter to a wider audience. Which in the current climate would be a good thing.
cspgIt won a prize:
Category: World Cinema Directing Award - Documentary
Winner: Space Tourists
Lasv3Then hopefully it is released as a DVD soon, it seems to be a thrilling document.

What took me by surprise (shown in the trailer) was the fact there are private "entrepreneurs" collecting the crashed strap-on Soyuz boosters in the steppe. I look forward to see it on my TV!

MrSpace86It's interesting seeing the spent boosters like that. There have been over 100 Soyuz flights... are all those rockets just laying around like that?

It would be interesting to save the "historical" rockets. I'm sure some of these tourists would buy them.

Robert PearlmanThe spent boosters are collected not as souvenirs but to be sold as scrap metal. There have been several articles written over the years about how it is source of income for the people in the area.
MrSpace86Wow, I read some of the articles regarding the N-1 tanks and such. This documentary looks interesting though. I can't wait to see it on DVD as well (or wherever it's playing!). Thanks Robert.
Lasv3Well, Russians seem to know how to earn money on space. Their flourishing ISS space tourism is another prove.
ASCAN1984Is there any more news when this might be available on DVD?
cspgI guess not before the film has toured the different film festivals worldwide. It will be shown in Melbourne, Australia late July early August.
cspgThe documentary will be broadcast on Swiss German channel 1 (SF1) August 20 (for Swiss viewers).
music_spaceI have just seen the movie in a festival here in Montreal. I liked it a lot! You get to see official events visible elsewhere, such as nose cone fairing assembly, rollout, prelaunch, prelaunch protocol, centrifuge training, zero-g training, etc. (nice launch close-ups!). But then you also see some of the training more intimately (Ansari and Simoniy), and some flight footage, especially at suppertime -- Jeffrey Williams and others spin a can of Russian food in mid-air and joke that the calories migrate to the circumference!

You get to see the suiting up (" I am like 1 meter from her and the only cameraman in the room, and it's a very intimate situation", says the director in this interesting interview). You also have a long, revealing close-up of Ansari in the lawn chair back on Earth. It was the first time I could see the opening of the Soyuz hatch back on the ground.

The film also follows scrap metal scavenging crews picking up the four first-stage strap-ons and the second-stage booster. It's funny seeing them look for the falling hardware, unable to locate them before they hear sonic booms!

Frei did not get the offical permission to shoot these crews, so he found their tracks from previous launches on Google Earth and tracked them!

The parallel between the scrap metal hunters' lifestyle, camping out under the stars near their huge, beaten trucks in barren Kazakhstan the night before launch, and the spaceflight participants', is treated in a unifying rather than contrasting manner. "Everyone's quests is equal under the stars", kind of...

A poem underlines this all, a beautiful piece, which applies equally well to a space voyager as well as to a stargazer lying under the stars:

Here I am, at the center of the world.
Behind me, myriads of protozoa,
before me, myriads of stars.
I lie between them in my entirety.
Two shores taming the sea,
a bridge that joins two worlds.
And, dear God, a little butterfly,
a shred of golden silk,
laughs at me like a child.
The trailer (and critical essays found through the Internet) seems to suggest that the relevance of space tourism as an extravagant expenditure might be heavily debated or exposed through the documentary, but it's not. I found it very refreshing in that respect. Looking at so many people (these guys, plus workers at Star City and Baikonour) deriving a living from those space launches reinforced my opinion that money invested in the Russian space program goes a long way indeed!

Also of interest for collectors, you see the TMA-9 crew of Ansari, Michael E. Lopez-Alegria and commander Mikhail Tyurin prepare their flight preference kits (whatever they call it at Roscosmos), and you also see Ansari cancel dozen of pieces of mail in flight.

On a side subject, you also get to see the effort of an Romanian X-Prize and Lunar Google X-Prize participant Dumitru Popescu, launching a test item with its solar hot-air balloon first stage.

I liked it very much, and I'll be looking for it on DVD.

Lasv3The "Space Tourists" DVD by Christian Frei is available now with for EUR 17,90 and also for EUR 17,99.
Robert recently interviewed filmmaker Christian Frei about "Space Tourists" ahead of the film debuting on the Documentary Channel on Sunday (Nov. 13) at 8 p.m. EST.
Frei was first compelled to make the film after reading a news article about a wealthy Japanese businessman named Daisuke Enomoto who was paying to travel to the International Space Station.

"I knew within two hours that it was going to be my next film," Frei said.

Due to a health concern, Enomoto was disqualified from spaceflight late in his training, and Ansari, who was earmarked as a backup crewmember at the time, suddenly found herself in the vacant seat of the Russian-built Soyuz capsule.

"Interestingly enough, I had no idea Christian was making the film," Ansari told "It was only three weeks before the flight when the switch happened, and I went into quarantine and never had the chance to meet him."

Frei was forced to switch gears, but luckily decided to keep filming.

"In a way, Anousheh came into my film as if from outer space," Frei said. "That's the nice thing about documentary film — you have to be open to these changes and you have to be open to new people."

ASCAN1984You can buy it in the UK from Grooves Inc.

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