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Space Tourists

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SPACE TOURISTS succeeds in surprising its audience with images and situations that have very little to do with the futuristic fantasy of “space tourism”. The filmmaker sets up encounters with the least likely people imaginable: places even stranger and more unknown than outer space itself.

With extra-ordinary access and truly first-time images the film investigates the emotional oscillations of an expensive enterprise and questions the meaning and boundaries of the human spirit and our hunger for adventure and discovery.

Running Time: 58/95 min.
Subject(s): Ecology, Environment, Globalization, Technology
Language(s): Arabic, English
Director(s):
Producer(s): Christian Frei

Press

  • SILVERDOCSBlog
    "Space Tourists is a very good documentary film. It covers the recent development of commercial space travel as well as the slowly decaying remains of the Cold War military monopoly on space.”
    Matthew Radcliff
  • WORLDPRESS.COM
    “Space Tourists just won the World Cinema Directing Award for Documentary. Completely deserved. Frei achieved a trust and insiders perspective in a field where access is extremely limited. I’m very happy for this engaging doc.”
  • THE HUFFINGTON POST
    “Anousheh Ansaris footage on board the International Space Station is some of the most intimate, breathtaking imagery we will ever see from outer space.”
    Brad Balfour
  • VARIETY
    “A likable, slightly melancholy ode to space travel past, present and future.”
  • CINEUROPA
    “The Best Director prize in the World Cinema Documentary section was given to Swiss documentarian Christian Frei for the crowd-pleaser SPACE TOURISTS.”
    Sandy Mandelberger
  • THE SPACE REVIEW
    “The documentary followes a group of metal salvagers on their journey to recover falling rocket stages that they fetch to sell the aluminum and titanium to China. This footage is so rare that it makes this movie a must-see for anyone in the space industry and anyone with an interest in cultural and historical impacts of space on small communities. Overall the movie had excellent contrasts between life on the ISS and workers in Kazakhstan and how in some cases they depend on each other in a strange symbiotic relationship. Another movie highlight was the old Russian space folk music used in the background that showed how deep into the culture space had once penetrated. The story did jump around a lot and perhaps stretched out too much in some parts, but getting to see such unique and rare footage was fantastic.”
    Ryan L. Kobrick
  • THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
    “Filmmaker Christian Frei launches a down-to-earth glimpse into the race for space. Even us Baby Boomers who got advanced math shoved down our throats in the wake of Yuri Gagarin's trek aboard Sputnik, and couldn't care less about outer space, will be entertained by this spry, melancholy glimpse into the last half-century's race to space. "Space Tourists'" informative and engaging trajectory should land it on cable somewhere: History and Discovery come to mind as orbit platforms.

    If you've got $20 million set aside for your next vacation, you can sign up to hop aboard a Russian rocket and get lifted into the wild not-so-blue yonder. That's what dreamer Anousheh Ansari has shelled out for her lifelong dream vacation. In this wry and inspiring documentary, filmmaker Christian Frei concentrates on her trek to live her dream, from the rigors of the Russian space school located in Star City, somewhere on the dark side of Kazakhstan boondocks, to her eventual re-entry to the boondocks of Mother Earth.

    Told through the narration of a young Norwegian man attempting to connect with his Russian heritage, "Space Tourists" is alternately gloomy and balmy: In essence, it visualizes the failure of Communism. We see the ugly ruins of government apartments, which during the Khrushchev we-will-bury-you era, housed thousands of engineers and top scientists. It's now a ghost town, shut down by Gorbachev and creaking toward "Mad Max" ruination.

    With its nicely languid story loopings, including a team of scrap metal scavengers who retrieve the re-entry detritus for its precious titanium, "Space Tourists" is a multi-dimensional glimpse into dreams and obsessions. Filmmaker Frei smartly interweaves the pride that many felt because of the space program's accomplishments while visualizing its down-to-earth, economic failings.

    Cinematographer Peter Indergand's scopings are expressively accented by the fine editing of Frei and Andreas Winterstein: The images, glorious and crude, butt against each other -- evocative of this Quixotic quest. The film's spare musical score is also ascendant, courtesy of composers Jan Garbarek, Edward Artemyev and Steve Reich.”
    Duane Byrge
  • LOS ANGELES TIMES
    As always at Sundance, it's the documentaries that are the most consistently rewarding films on view, and some of the best come from veteran doc filmmakers whose work will be familiar to fans of the genre. Well worth mentioning is the singular "Space Tourists", an elegantly shot, almost surreal look at elements and offshoots of the Russian space program, including how $20 million got an American businesswoman shot into space.

    “Frei is a famously patient filmmaker. Shooting Space Tourists was initially “a nightmare.” He faced a tough battle to win permission to shoot in Kazakhstan and to convince the authorities to allow him to do more than just shoot at press conferences.

    The documentary juxtaposes breathtakingly beautiful imagery of space with down-to-earth, surreal footage of Kazakh farms and scrap-metal collectors, who use the metal detritus from the rockets as makeshift cooking pans or sell the precious metal to the Chinese. The farmers even manage to fashion farming implements from the space ship debris.”
    Geoffrey Macnab

Festival Participation

  • Sundance Film Festival, USA - 2010
    World Cinema Documentary Directing Award
  • Eurodok Festival, Norway - 2010
    Eurodok Award
  • Beldocs International Documentary Film Festival, Serbia - 2010
    Best Photography Award
  • International Documentary Film Festival Zagrebdocs, Croatia - 2010
  • “Kino Pavasaris“ Vilnius International Film Festival, Lithuania - 2010
  • International Istanbul Film Festival, Turkey - 2010
  • Irish Film Institute Documentary Film Festival, Ireland - 2010
  • Florida Film Festival, USA - 2010
  • OXDOX International Film Festival, England - 2010
  • London International Documentary Festival, England - 2010
  • Hot Docs, Canada - 2010
  • DOCVILLE, Belgium - 2010
  • TRT International Documentary Film Competition - 2010
  • DocAviv, Israel - 2010
  • Planete Doc Review, Poland - 2010
  • DOK.FEST München, Germany - 2010
  • Documenta, Spain - 2010
  • Festival of European Co-productions, Bulgaria - 2010
  • FICMA International Environmental Film Festival, Spain - 2010
  • Sydney Film Festival, Australia - 2010
  • Biografilm Festival, Italy - 2010
  • Ecofilms, Greece - 2010
  • AFI / Silverdocs, USA - 2010
  • Los Angeles Film Festival, USA - 2010
  • New Zealand Film Festival - 2010
  • Melbourne International Film Festival, Australia - 2010
  • DokuFest Prizren, Kosovo - 2010
  • Rencontres Internationales du Documentaire de Montréal, Canada - 2010
  • International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, Netherlands - 2009
  • Zurich Film Festival, Switzerland - 2009

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