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The cinematic race in space between Russia and the United States | opinions

The Russian astronaut Bogdanov suddenly loses consciousness during a mission in space, and after the doctors examine him, they decide that he must undergo surgery on a Russian spacecraft outside the planet, and the choice falls on the Russian doctor, Zhenya Belyaeva.

Xenia prepares herself in a hurry to make an unprecedented journey into space to perform this surgery, and after she reaches her destination, everything turns into slow motion due to lack of gravity, and she has to take on this difficult challenge in the Russian film “The Challenge” by Russian director Klim Shipenko, produced in 2023.

This film is the first long fictional work in history to be actually filmed outside the planet and find its way to cinema screens, as no films were filmed in space before it except for a short documentary.

The challenge is the fruit of cooperation between the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) and the official Russian Channel One, with a budget of about one billion rubles (about 12 million US dollars), and it has already started showing in cinemas a few days ago in Russia and other countries.

News of this film has not been interrupted by the media for nearly two years due to the competitive nature that has governed it since it was announced in the context of the competition between the United States and Russia and in the midst of a diplomatic crisis between the two countries against the background of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as Russia seeks to set a precedent in this field to block the way On the plan of American director Doug Lehman and actor Tom Cruise to film a movie in space, in cooperation between the US space agency “NASA” (NASA) and the company “SpaceX” owned by the famous businessman Elon Musk.

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Indeed, Russia was able to achieve this, recording that it was the first to send a film crew to space, as it was sent by Yuri Gargarin, the first astronaut in 1961.

This film is the first long fictional work in history to be actually filmed outside the planet and find its way to cinema screens, as no films were filmed in space before it except for a short documentary.

This film carries several messages, one of which is related to the nature of the relationship between cinema and the various Russian institutions, especially in light of the delicate circumstances that the country is going through, and the other is related to the nature of this new type of film and its impact on cinema in general.

First: Russian cinema and institutions

The first thing that caught my eye about the news of the film two years ago was that it came under the production supervision of the former director of the Russian Space Agency, Dmitry Rogozin, before he was dismissed from his position in the middle of last year, and he may be the owner of the idea of ​​the film, as the man has strict nationalist ideas towards the West, and he combined several Diplomatic, journalistic and party backgrounds, and he was the first to announce the idea of ​​the film at the end of the year 2020.

I had the opportunity to talk to him during a press interview with him in 2008 when he was the permanent representative of Russia to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in the Belgian capital, Brussels.

And he was fiercely defending the Russian position and severely criticizing Western countries and their policies towards Russia in a way that is not familiar to the representatives of countries in NATO, and from then until now the man does not hide his permanent defense of Russia and his criticism of Western countries in a way that goes beyond diplomatic norms.

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It was strange that he retained his position, which requires him to cooperate with Western countries in light of the cooperation between Russia and a number of Western countries within the framework of the International Space Station.

But it seems that Russia is interested in this cooperation, and therefore it backtracked on its previous plans to get out of the orbiting laboratory by 2024, to announce instead that it will use the outer International Space Station until 2028.

The production of the new Russian film “The Challenge” can only be seen as an attempt to achieve a space-related media victory that addresses Russian pride and obscures the need for such space cooperation.

The film “The Challenge” is an attempt to break the artistic isolation imposed by the United States on Russia since last year, represented by preventing Russian films from being shown in American theaters and preventing them from participating in European and American art festivals, which represented an economic and artistic blow to Russia and cut off efforts to attempts to revive the sector. Cinema there who has been in full swing for several years.

Second: cinema in space

From a technical point of view, this movie cannot be bypassed or at least included in the list of science fiction films, because it is no longer a fantasy but a reality.

The main fundamental difference between science fiction films and regular science films or fictional narratives is the extent to which the story is consistent with reality, identical or in terms of logic.

That is why all space films remained within the framework of science fiction, because it is practically possible only through the use of cinematic tricks and visual effects, such as the famous American movie “Interstellar” by American director Christopher Nolan, who won the Academy Award for using the best visual effects. .

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Direct imaging from the spacecraft to Earth is an attractive experience in terms of cinematography, because it transfers the viewer to a visual level that has scarce images, except for what was rarely done by non-specialists in photography previously, and people are eager to watch the planet from different angles from an unfamiliar place.

The story of American actor Tom Cruise’s upcoming movie in space could fall into science fiction, as it relies on a repeated plot in Hollywood cinema about the story of a man who finds himself in an unprecedented situation that requires him to save the world.

Most of the scenes will be filmed on Earth until the story reaches its climax and Cruise actually travels into space, not through optical illusions.

Of course, it is expected that Tom Cruise’s movie will be successful, given the man’s name, the nature of Hollywood production, and the expansion of distribution in the world, unlike the Russian film, despite his deprivation of the title of the first actor to be filmed in space in history.

Both experiences may tempt Russia and the United States, and perhaps other countries, to repeat the experiment in other formats, so that space becomes an arena for cinematic competition.