There are documentaries that explore, in the spirit of investigative journalism, the hidden truths and untold stories of history, and there are documentaries like this one, which seek to capture famous moments in the words of those who lived and experienced them.
In the Shadow of the Moon gives voice to almost all the surviving humans who have ever stepped on the surface of another world: the men who flew in NASAs Apollo missions. It also includes those who famously never made it - like Apollo 13s Jim Lovell, who never made a lunar landing due to an in-space malfunction, and Apollo 11s Mike Collins, who stayed "home, as it were, while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took those giant leaps for mankind.
Both Lovell and Collins are eloquent speakers very comfortable with their roles in history and the fact that these are the stories of their lives, to be retold generation after generation. Apparently less comfortable is Armstrong, who doesnt appear and has remained shy about promoting his role in recent years.
In addition to capturing these experiences first-hand, Shadow unveils quite a bit of unseen NASA film footage, lovingly restored for the doc. It could serve as one big commercial for NASAs accomplishments but its a greater sense of loss that ultimately emerges: as astronauts are hailed as heroes not for America but for humankind, the United States is truly seen as a saviour, a vanguard of science and technology that will light the way for a better world. Not in a cynical, jingoistic way, and not in a naive, apolitical sense (one astronaut laments that his "fellow pilots were dying in Vietnam while he got shuttled to the White House), but in a true moment of hope embodied by the progress of science.
Looking back just one generation, its shocking how much that sense has changed. Seeing this doc, one wonders just how the country that sent these brave men to another world has gone off the rails. (Th!nk)