CANADA – 2012 – 80 MIN – COLOUR - DOCUMENTARY - IN ENGLISH
A FILM BY SIMON ENNIS
With wry humor and affection, Simon Ennis’ LUNARCY! follows a disparate group of dreamers and schemers who share one thing in common; they’ve all devoted their lives to the Moon. From the former ventriloquist who’s made millions selling Moon lots to the young man who’s resolved to depart for Luna (permanently), LUNARCY! is a touching and comic portrait of passion, creativity and quixotic dreams.
In the fall of 2010, filmmaker Simon Ennis approached producing partner (and former high school classmate) Jonas Bell Pasht with the idea to make a documentary about the Moon and the various ways it’s captured man- kind’s imagination.
“Originally the intention was to make a more straightforward documentary, a kind of omnibus of Lunar stories, facts and trivia.”, says Ennis. “It was going to be based primarily in science, history and folklore, as well as the future of energy resources – Helium3 and solar power farms on the Moon, that kind of thing. Then I heard about Dennis Hope.”
After reading about Hope, whose claim of ownership to the Moon (filed with the United Nations) turned into a multimillion dollar business, Ennis’s vision began to take a different turn.
“When I first called up Dennis and got the story of how he found a loophole in the 1967 U.N. Outer Space Treaty (that forbids nations but not individuals from claiming ownership of any extra-terrestrial bodies) and used it to became the owner of the Moon, I thought to myself, this guy is a genius! I have never met another person who’s had a better idea than this. What does it even feel like, to look up at a full Moon in the night sky and think, that’s mine? And that got me thinking much more about how we all actually have a kind of personal relationship with the Moon.”
As production started in late Spring 2011, Ennis began to traverse North America (sometimes with a small crew but often by himself), collecting stories from others whose relationship with the Moon were at least as unlikely, bizarre, beautiful and quixotic as Dennis Hope’s lunar land claim.
At the heart of LUNARCY! is the story of Christopher Carson, an eccentric young man who has devoted himself to spreading the good word of lunar colonization. Carson is committed to being the first human to leave for the Moon, with no intention of ever returning.
“Christopher was the one subject of the film who I didn’t find. He found me. I was in Phoenix at the Space Ac- cess Conference, which brings together people from the commercial space industry, rocket scientists, engineers, NASA people, etc. I had gone there with the intention of making contacts in the space field and interviewing as many experts as I could find about the future of mankind in space in general and on the Moon in particular... and I was getting nothing.
“After a full day and a half of pulling my hair out thinking that the trip was a mistake that had just taken a sizable chunk out of our meager budget, something incredible happened. The elevator doors opened and out walked a dapper young man with glasses and a trim moustache wearing a vest that said ‘Luna City or Bust’. He came right up to me, handed me his newsletter and asked if he could talk to me about Lunar colonization.”
What at first just seemed like a colourful interview grew into something much more as Carson and Ennis struck up a friendship and the former unexpectedly became the heart of the film. Ennis traveled to Fort Worth, Texas to visit Carson at home and ended up traveling with him across the state to San Antonio where he was giving a presentation (and laser show!) to a group of high school students. Later they would embark on a journey across the country by train from a huge science fiction convention in Reno all the way to NYC where Carson would go for broke in an unforgettable experience in Times Square.
Along with Carson and Hope, Ennis and his team would meet and interview other remarkable characters includ- ing former NASA special agent (read: Moon Rock Detective) Joe Gutheinz, noted astrophysicist Dr. Jaymie Mat- thews, author Matthew Goodman as well as Moon Society president Peter Kokh and former Apollo Astronaut Alan Bean.
“Meeting Al Bean was an absolute thrill. When you think about the fact that there have been something like 100 billion people to have lived on earth and only 12 of them have actually set foot on another planet... it’s stagger- ing to think how special these guys are.”
In the end, what began as a documentary about the Moon became a documentary about people; their hopes, beliefs, aspirations and dreams.
“As much as the focus of the film shifted from concept to conclusion, one idea stayed constant. Throughout history the Moon has always been symbolically charged. Various cultures and even individuals within a culture all see it differently. How you look at it really says more about you than it does the Moon. In talking to all these wonderful people, what I really ended up capturing was their personal philosophies. And as different as those philosophies were, they were always focused on reaching for something bigger than the humdrum everyday world around us. Everyone was motivated by real optimism and a yearning for transcendence. And that’s something I can ab- solutely relate to.”
Visual style: To achieve a fun, otherworldly aesthetic for LUNARCY!, Ennis shot in various formats, both HD and Super-8, as well as pulling vintage stock footage not only from NASA but from various mid-century resources.
“The aesthetic of Lunar travel is so tied to the Apollo missions. Not only the footage actually shot by the astro- nauts but also the sci-fi that was predominant during the space race in the 50s and 60s. I wanted to find ways to interject that nostalgic, dreamy feel into what we were shooting. Super-8 cross-processed and scanned to HD really matches well with the faded 16mm look that we identify with the glory days of space travel. It also has a natural, dreamy feel that I thought would be evocative of the subjects’ imaginations.”
"the next time you see a brilliant moon above, it’s just possible you will also see their philosophies, hopes and dreams etched there as well."
- QUINTE FILM ALTERNATIVE
"It all builds to a noble and surprisingly poignant conclusion that many documentaries – even ones like this that are constructed to be entertaining instead of dry didacticism – have the depth to pull off."
- CRITICIZE THIS!
"It’s possible that not all of Ennis’s interview subjects appreciate the company they keep in this film. But in spite of the sometimes silly nature of the material, there are oddball moments of truth. 'Why did the dinosaurs become extinct?' Carson says, explaining the need for off-world colonies. 'Because they didn’t have a space program.' Well, he’s right."
- THE NATIONAL POST
"With its savvy use of archival footage and eagerness to let the film’s subjects reveal themselves at their own pace, Ennis’s first non-fiction effort after the Toronto filmmaker’s underrated 2009 comedy, You Might As Well Live, is reminiscent of Errol Morris’s most light-hearted studies of earthbound eccentrics."
- THE GRID
"Ennis is on solid ground here, rendering these nuts’ pioneering spirit with a delicate comic touch."
"The director of the moon-themed doc LUNARCY! on growing up in Toronto’s movie scene, far-out obsessions, and how an astronaut left him starstruck." (Interview with Simon Ennis)
- THE GRID
"LUNARCY! feels like it could have been filmed by a young Errol Morris."
- NOW MAGAZINE
"There’s no accident that “moon” and “loon” rhyme, and also share a common etymology concerning shiny obsessions and unhinged thinking."
- THE TORONTO STAR
"Canadian doc careful not to poke fun at characters obsessed with the moon" (Interview with Simon Ennis)
"...a hilarious, sweet, and oddly touching depiction of the joys and fulfillment of obsession"
- DORK SHELF
Video interview with director Simon Ennis
- ELECTRIC PLAYGROUND
The film lives up to the exclamation mark that Ennis cheekily includes in his title, it's a wide-eyed movie about benign obsessions and other follies. Well made, well told, LUNARCY! and its band of loonies makes for quite an entertaining documentary.
"With its quirky soundtrack, fun animation and equally enjoyable stock footage, LUNARCY! is a unique documentary infused with comedy, yet it presents some visionary ideas that can't be completely disregarded. Many people throw around the expression, "reach for the stars," but the subjects of Ennis's documentary are doing just that."
Audio Interview: Interview: Director Simon Ennis, LUNARCY!
- 680 NEWS
"Global Screen has picked up worldwide distribution rights, excluding Canada, for the Simon Ennis documentary LUNARCY! (pictured), ahead of its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival."
"Programmers’ Picks: Day 1"
- THE NATIONAL POST
"Moon-obsessed dreamers shoot beyond the stars in comic documentary LUNARCY! (Interview with director Simon Ennis)
- WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
A video interview with filmmaker Simon Ennis
- RED CARPET DIARY