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Mon, Apr 24, 2023

First Film Shot in Space Debuts in Russian Cinemas

Shipenko and Peresild Underwent Four Months of Training

On Thursday, 20 April 2023, Moscow exulted as the first feature film shot in space premiered in Russian cinemas—thereby beating a rival Hollywood project to the proverbial punch at an historical juncture characterized by renewed tensions between Russia and the Western world.

Titled The Challenge, the Russian film tells the fictitious but plausible story of a surgeon dispatched to the International Space Station for purpose of saving an injured cosmonaut. To accomplish this cinematic feat, Moscow sent an actress and a film director—Russians, both—to the ISS for a 12-day filming stint in October 2021.

The Russki endeavor edged out a Hollywood project announced jointly in 2020 by Mission Impossible star Tom Cruise, NASA, and Elon Musk's SpaceX.

Russian President Vladimir Putin lauded The Challenge, stating: "We are the first to have shot a feature film in orbit, aboard a spacecraft. Once again the first."

Putin’s comments conceal a modicum of veracity.

Just as the Soviet Union was the first to successfully put a manmade satellite, Sputnik 1 (October 1957); a living creature, a dog named Laika (November 1957); and a human being, Yuri Gagarin (April 1961) into Earth orbit, so the Russian film crew’s orbital junket occasioned yet another instance in which Russia’s space aspirations were actualized ahead of America’s.

A work of dramatic science-fiction The Challenge stars 38-year-old Yulia Peresild, one of Russia's most glamorous actresses. Ms. Peresild portrays a Russian surgeon whose life is turned upside-down when she’s prevailed upon to rocket into space to perform life-saving surgery on a cosmonaut injured during a spacewalk on the International Space Station.

Director Klim Shipenko, 39—who personally oversaw and operated the filming effort’s cameras, lighting, and sound recording—returned to Earth with thirty-hours of footage, fifty-minutes of which are visible in the film’s final cut.

Shipenko and Peresild underwent four months of training prior to venturing spaceward aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in the company of a Roscosmos cosmonaut.

The film’s ISS sequences were shot in the space station’s Russian module and feature cameo appearances by a trio of actual Russian cosmonauts then stationed aboard the immense orbital facility. The camera followed Peresild moving through the ISS’s cramped confines, her blonde hair floating in zero gravity.

Ahead of the film's release, the capsule in which Peresild and Shipenko made their return trip to Earth was put on display in central Moscow. Tatyana Kulikova, a 45-year-old Russian citizen who works at a factory in the city of Ufa, expressed her eagerness to see The Challenge, stating: "We are Russia, and Russia is always ahead.” That Ms. Kulikova is either too young to remember or too poorly informed to be aware of NASA’s Apollo, Space Shuttle, and innumerable planetary and deep-space probes is contemporaneously apparent and unfortunate.

Filming The Challenge was a joint undertaking of Russian space agency Roscosmos and Russian television network Channel One, the head of which, Mr. Konstantin Ernst, was extravagant in his self-praise, enthusing: "We are all fans of Gravity [the 2013 Hollywood film starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock] but our [The] Challenge, shot in actual weightlessness, shows that [Gravity] was just CGI."

According to Comrade Ernst, The Challenge was filmed for less than one-billion Russian rubles ($12-million). The film’s full production budget—after the contemporary fashion of state-controlled media—has yet to be revealed.



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