Sputnik Mania (2008) Trailer
Fifty years ago, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik into outer space on Oct. 4, 1957. Its beep-beep broadcast a profound change in the world. The shock waves from that event continue to this day. A new documentary feature length film, Sputnik Mania, has just been completed to coincide with the anniversary of this defining moment in human history. The film tells the whole story of the launch of Sputnik and what happened to America during the following year. It presents not only previously lost footage from the ‘50s, but also an extraordinary collection of big-name and unknown interviews as well as recently declassified insights into the high-level decisions that followed the dawn of the space age and launched the superpowers on a missile race.
The launch of Sputnik initially thrilled Americans. But within a surprisingly short time, that enthusiasm descended into fear and anxiety as politicians and the media whipped the public into a frenzy over Sputnik and the rocket that launched it -- a rocket that could easily have been used as a Soviet ICBM missile attacking our cities. Then-Senator Lyndon Johnson compared Sputnik to another Pearl Harbor.
Only months after Sputnik’s launch, 60% of Americans thought that nuclear war was imminent and that 50% of the American population would likely die (Gallup Poll, April 1958). Throughout 1958, as tensions increased, the U.S. and U.S.S.R. between them tested a nuclear bomb in the atmosphere every three days. Americans were told by government leaders to build personal bomb shelters and stockpile emergency supplies. By June 10, 1958, with America’s first satellite also in space, tens of millions participated in a nationwide underground civil defense drill.
Created by veteran filmmaker David Hoffman, who pored through thousands of hours of archival footage, Sputnik Mania contains a wealth of forgotten scenes, news accounts and recent interviews.
Sputnik Mania includes historic clips of: Soviets building the first rockets and satellites; reactions from television and radio newscasts; people scanning the night sky in awe and fear; then-Major John Glenn on a quiz show just 3 hours after the launch of Sputnik, discussing the satellite four years before he became the first American to orbit the earth; American schoolchildren building their own rockets; coverage of the dog Laika, the first living creature to reach space from Earth, and reaction as the world realized that the dog was sent to its death; shots of Wernher von Braun, the former Nazi scientist whose rockets gave America a fighting chance in the space race; religious leaders predicting the Second Coming or the end of the world; and Americans building bomb shelters, donning gas masks and preparing for nuclear war amidst the general fear surrounding the launch.
Sputnik Mania provides an in-depth look at the tensions between President Dwight Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. It follows their diplomatic relations in the midst of Sputnik-fueled concerns over a growing nuclear arms race and pressures from the militaries of both nations to militarize space.
The launch of Sputnik also galvanized nearly all aspects of American culture. Along with the shock and fear was a determination to conquer the heavens ourselves. Science became patriotic, with an urgency only seen before in wartime. In the shadow of Sputnik, technology and engineering received a massive infusion of funding, and our national priorities were upended. The modern age had truly begun, and America was not going to come in second.
- Posted: February 28, 2008
- Director: David Hoffman
- Writer: David Hoffman
- Studio: Balcony Releasing
- Release: March 14, 2008
- Cast: Liev Schreiber
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