First Man row

Feud over flag

  • Published 6.09.18
Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong in First Man

The family of astronaut Neil Armstrong has defended a new film against accusations of anti-Americanism because it does not show him planting the US flag to mark the first moon landing.

First Man, starring Canadian actor Ryan Gosling as Armstrong, had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival and won rave reviews from critics.

“We do not feel this movie is anti-American in the slightest. Quite the opposite,” Armstrong’s sons Rick and Mark said in a statement.

The film is not due for release until October, but reports of the missing flag-planting scene were seized on by some in the United States. Republican Senator Marco Rubio called the omission “total lunacy”.

“The American people paid for that mission, on rockets built by Americans, with American technology & carrying American astronauts,” he tweeted.

First Man director Damien Chazelle also denied he was trying to make a political statement. The movie does show other shots of the flag on the moon. “To address the question of whether this was a political statement, the answer is no,” Chazelle said in a statement. He and Armstrong’s sons said the film’s focus was on the astronaut’s personal story and the challenges he faced in getting to the moon. Armstrong died in 2012.

“The filmmakers chose to focus on Neil looking back at the Earth, his walk to Little West Crater, his unique, personal experience of completing this journey, a journey that had seen so many incredible highs and devastating lows,” the sons said through James R. Hansen, the author of the book on which the film is based.

Chazelle said the film was about “one of the most extraordinary accomplishments not only in American history, but in human history.” 

Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, however, has criticised First Man for omitting the flag-planting scene. Aldrin, 88, took to Twitter and posted a still from old footage of himself and Armstrong planting the US flag on the moon. He accompanied the images with captions including the hashtags “#proudtobeanAmerican", “#freedom”, and “#onenation”. Reuters and PTI