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Damien Chazelle Issues Statement Over ‘First Man’ Backlash, Explains Why Film Doesn’t Show American Flag Being Planted on the Moon

"This film is about one of the most extraordinary accomplishments not only in American history, but in human history," Chazelle says.

Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Damien Chazelle. Actors Ryan Gosling, from left, Claire Foy and director Damien Chazelle pose for photographers at the photo call for the film 'First Man' at the 75th edition of the Venice Film Festival in VeniceFilm Festival 2018 First Man Photo Call, Venice, Italy - 29 Aug 2018

Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Damien Chazelle.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/REX/Shutterstock

First Man” director Damien Chazelle has issued a statement (via Deadline) reacting to backlash against his Neil Armstrong space race drama. The movie premiered August 29 on opening night of the Venice Film Festival and, despite strong reviews from critics, sparked a bit of controversy from certain viewers (and especially from Sen. Marco Rubio) for not including Armstrong’s iconic planting of the American flag on the surface of the moon.

According to Chazelle’s statement, the director decided to leave out the moment because he wasn’t making a movie focused on American history but one entirely about Armstrong’s perspective about his mission to the moon. The filmmaker said the decision to omit the American flag being planted on the moon was not a political one and was made entirely to strengthen the story he was telling in “First Man.”

“I wanted the primary focus in that scene to be on Neil’s solitary moments on the moon. …This film is about one of the most extraordinary accomplishments not only in American history, but in human history,” Chazelle said. “My hope is that by digging under the surface and humanizing the icon, we can better understand just how difficult, audacious and heroic this moment really was.”

Chazelle’s statement follows similar thoughts from Ryan Gosling, who plays Armstrong in the film. During the movie’s Venice press conference, Gosling said the moon landing “transcended countries and borders” and the filmmaking team did not want to ruin their film’s subjectivity by making a political statement.

“I don’t think that Neil viewed himself as an American hero,” Gosling added. “From my interviews with his family and people that knew him, it was quite the opposite. And we wanted the film to reflect Neil.”

“First Man” opens nationwide on October 12 via Universal Pictures. You can read Chazelle’s full statement in the post below.

In “First Man” I show the American flag standing on the lunar surface, but the flag being physically planted into the surface is one of several moments of the Apollo 11 lunar EVA that I chose not to focus upon. To address the question of whether this was a political statement, the answer is no. My goal with this movie was to share with audiences the unseen, unknown aspects of America’s mission to the moon — particularly Neil Armstrong’s personal saga and what he may have been thinking and feeling during those famous few hours.

I wanted the primary focus in that scene to be on Neil’s solitary moments on the moon — his point of view as he first exited the LEM, his time spent at Little West Crater, the memories that may have crossed his mind during his lunar EVA. This was a feat beyond imagination; it was truly a giant leap for mankind. This film is about one of the most extraordinary accomplishments not only in American history, but in human history. My hope is that by digging under the surface and humanizing the icon, we can better understand just how difficult, audacious and heroic this moment really was.

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