Following a path of discovery through a transformed landscape, Launch leads us to the question: is humankind just a passing storm? In the tradition of Herzog, Brian Doyle’s quasi-fictionalized documentary uses elements from reality to describe a fiction of a possible future. Reinterpreted current events present a new narrative: a hurricane becomes the last storm on earth, animals gathering signal a new planetary order, and a rocket launch is our last hope.
The journey from the ocean, through swamps, down empty roads, and into a network of strange buildings gradually reveals the structure of a deserted space complex. A swelling hurricane has left the landscape depopulated. Only some glittering emergency space blankets blow through an empty launch pad. As the storm rages, scrambled radio messages foretell an urgent action. Finally, the storm subsides and calm is briefly restored. Erupting through the eye of the storm, a rocket escapes, carrying the last humans off the planet.
Launch (super 8 transfer to video) was filmed with the generous cooperation of NASA and the Kennedy Space Center. Shot in 2005 while hurricane Ophelia lingered off the Florida coast (just following Katrina’s destruction earlier that year), the wildlife found throughout the space center came to extraordinary life. The film documents the impact of the hurricane during the most widespread and ruinous Atlantic hurricane season in recorded history and the 2005 launch of space shuttle Discovery, STS-114, our anxiously awaited return to space following the Columbia disaster of 2003.
Launch takes a stark look at the ultimate underlying goal of any space program – our survival in the universe. The film imagines the day when humankind must face the overwhelming force of nature and attempt to escape it. It is a meditation on the end of an era and the beginning of a drastically different and unpredictable future.
Launch premiered at the 2008 Rotterdam Film Festival
Courtesy of the artist