The two sons of famed astronaut Neil Armstrong are firing back against claims that a new biopic about their father, First Man, is anti-American.
The drama, directed by Damien Chazelle and starring Ryan Gosling, premiered on August 29 at the Venice Film Festival, where it received a standing ovation. But when early viewers revealed that the narrative does not include the moment Armstrong planted an American flag on the moon when he arrived on its surface in 1969, many people, including Sen. Marco Rubio, took to social media to protest the film, whether they had seen it or not.
In response, the late Armstong’s two sons, Rick and Mark, along with First Man author James R. Hansen, issued a statement on Friday in which they encouraged everyone to see the film first:
“We’ve read a number of comments about the film today and specifically about the absence of the flag planting scene, made largely by people who haven’t seen the movie. As we’ve seen it multiple times, we thought maybe we should weigh in.
This is a film that focuses on what you don’t know about Neil Armstrong. It’s a film that focuses on things you didn’t see or may not remember about Neil’s journey to the moon. The filmmakers spent years doing extensive research to get at the man behind the myth, to get at the story behind the story. It’s a movie that gives you unique insight into the Armstrong family and fallen American Heroes like Elliot See and Ed White. It’s a very personal movie about our dad’s journey, seen through his eyes.
This story is human and it is universal. Of course, it celebrates an America achievement. It also celebrates an achievement “for all mankind,” as it says on the plaque Neil and Buzz [Aldrin] left on the moon. It is a story about an ordinary man who makes profound sacrifices and suffers through intense loss in order to achieve the impossible.
Although Neil didn’t see himself that way, he was an American hero. He was also an engineer and a pilot, a father and a friend, a man who suffered privately through great tragedies with incredible grace. This is why, though there are numerous shots of the American flag on the moon, 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 has seen so many incredible highs and devastating lows.
In short, we do not feel this movie is anti-American in the slightest. Quite the opposite. But don’t take our word for it. We’d encourage everyone to go see this remarkable film and see for themselves.”
Gosling had already publicly defended the decision not to include the American flag scene during a news conference in Venice. According to the Telegraph, Gosling supported the omission because, he said, “I don’t think that Neil viewed himself as an American hero. From my interviews with his family and people that knew him, it was quite the opposite. And we wanted the film to reflect Neil.”