THREE STARS - WHOLESOME
Uniting human beings is a difficult task. However, there was one moment in which 600 million of us from all the countries of the world were united: when the first human being stepped onto the moon. This transcendent experience compelled us to leave behind our earthly distinctions and join in the accomplishment of our universal trek. Heralded by those who experienced it as an actual moment of global peace, it demonstrates our need for a purpose that transcends earthly pursuits if unity is to be accomplished.
Weaving an amusing story of fiction with fact, Director Rob Sitch allows us to explore this moment through the lives of a rag-tag group of people who were the radio telescope operates of the town of Parkes in New South Wales, Australia. They operated “The Dish,” a satellite dish the size of a football field in the middle of a sheep pasture which received the first televised pictures of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon.
But it is not only the transcendent moment that brought people of all nations together which makes this film interesting, it is the way Director Rob Sitch demonstrates the all-too-human foibles of the people who made it happen. Often, the great accomplishments of history are shown to have been done by virtually super-human humans, rather than the normal persons with whom we share our lives. Yet, the truth is that it is through ordinary people that extra-ordinary achievements are made.
The ordinary people who accomplished this task are led by Cliff Buxton (Sam Neill). Cliff is a recently widowed scientist whose wife had been his encouragement. Adopting her spirit, Cliff has such respect for his team that he demonstrates a wonderful style of leadership that could be best described as “leading by encouragement.”
He encourages a shy and brilliant mathematician, Glenn Latham (Tom Long), to take the risk and ask out the young woman of his dreams. This personal encouragement allows Latham to be willing to also risk himself when a moment of crisis calls all of them to rise to the occasion.
Buxton encourages the insecure mechanical expert, Ross “Mitch” Mitchell (Kevin Harrington) to let go of his critical defensiveness and experience the true significance of this moment in which they are a part of the international team making the moonwalk possible.
The man who actually brought “The Dish” to Parkes is the mayor of the city, Bob McIntyre (Roy Billings). He is a simple, ambitious man with a lovely wife May McIntyre (Genevieve Mooy) who provides his strength while both supporting him and nagging him about putting his elbows on the table and tucking in his shirt. They become even more endearing when we meet their contentious teenage daughter. Typical of teens in the summer of 1969, Marie (Lenka Kripac) is an idealist whose own sense of importance dwarfs her ability to be civil to her parents and suitor.
The interplay of the actual footage and transmissions of the Apollo 11 moonwalk with the humorous humanity of “The Dish” operators and friends is a wonderful way to weave together both the importance of that event and the ordinary people who made it happen. “The Dish” is served to us as a simple celebration of the best of our humanity in both its accomplishments and its frailties.