For All Mankind (1989)
★★★★ / ★★★★
After going over several million feet of original film from none other than the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, along with hours of interviews and mission recordings from cosmonauts, director Al Reinert created a collage of various Apollo and Gemini missions that just have to be seen to be believed. It is most special that the film is pure in that it does not contain one footage that has been already shown in the media.
Although the documentary offers images that are literally out of this world, it is first and foremost a human experience. The comments we hear often relate to mankind’s tendency to be curious and how it must be like to discover or experience something new. Out of all the fascinating voices, I loved listening to T. Kenneth Mattingly II most. His words are wrapped in philosophy and sense of wonder. His voice is soothing without a hint of irony. Couple these qualities with the images that showcase the majesty of space and we feel a most uplifting spiritual experience.
When he admitted that he did not know how to do most of the mission but knew how to do his piece, it made him very relatable. A lot of us tend to hold astronauts in impossibly high regard. It is nice to hear an astronaut admit to the fact that he was not very knowledgeable about the specifics of how things worked. He knew only what he was trained to do.
The images are so mesmerizing, I found it difficult not to blink in the attempt to capture it all. It was just so cool that none of the wondrous images is created by special and visual effects. The illuminated surface of the moon against the blackness of space is the ultimate contrast—the known and the unknown, what we have accomplished and everything that is left to be discovered. Also, since the moon’s environment is so alien, actions like picking up a rock or tripping over the lunar surface becomes worthy of our attention.
It is not a regurgitation of facts but a celebration. We see astronauts hopping about the moon while singing, humming, and laughing—very similar to children having the best time on a playground. Their joy radiates through their space suits. A fun bit involves one of the astronauts letting go of a hammer and feather at the same in order to test Galileo’s theory involving motion of falling bodies. Another astronaut describes to us the troubles of using the restroom in zero gravity. He leaves very little to the imagination.
“For All Mankind,” with a powerful but never overpowering score by Brian Eno, is a quilt of the many doors we have opened in outer space and the infinite others yet to be discovered. It is most appropriate to be shown to young people because it might inspire them not necessarily to visit other celestial bodies but to dream a little bigger, reconnect and stay connected to that curiosity to explore, and feel proud for the advancements in science given our short time as a species on Earth.