Back to IndieWire

‘Spaceship Earth’ Trailer: Experience the 1991 Quarantine Experiment That Rocked the World

Neon releases Matt Wolf's stranger-than-fiction documentary about a landmark undertaking at the corner of counterculture and science this coming May.

"Spaceship Earth"

“Spaceship Earth”


Matt Wolf’s Sundance Film Festival documentary “Spaceship Earth” arrives at quite a moment in history, as the film ponders a science experiment that wanted to find the good, and science-expanding possibilities, in self-imposed quarantine. Check out the first trailer for the film below, which Neon will release in May on digital platforms — including the websites of restaurants, bookstores, and other small non-theatrical businesses — as distributors get used to skipping theatrical in these crazy times.

“Spaceship Earth” is the true, stranger-than-fiction adventure of eight visionaries who, beginning in 1991, spent two years quarantined inside of a self-engineered biome called Biosphere 2. The glass terrarium deep in the Arizona desert sought to replicate earth’s ecosystem, end became a pilot program for Mars colonization. The experiment became a global phenomenon, chronicling daily existence in the face of life-threatening ecological disaster, from food shortages to oxygen deprivation, while contending with growing assumptions from the media and beyond that the Biosphere inhabitants were nothing but a mad cult. Biosphere 2 soon found itself labeled as the product of science-fiction, not credible science, from a pack of ’60s hippies. The $200-million research facility, of course, became a tourist attraction, tarnishing its integrity and reputation along the way.

Out of Park City, Variety called the film “a lovely, engrossing documentary flashback. ‘Spaceship Earth’ reclaims Biosphere 2… from the pop-culture-footnote dustbin, capturing the spirit of genuine idealism and earnest scientific inquiry… An involving, oddly poignant tale that should have broad appeal to those on the lookout for distinctive documentary features… has the excitement and involvement of a fictive sci-fi narrative.”

Matt Wolf’s previous documentaries include “Recorder,” about activist and pioneering television archivist Marion Stokes, who taped 35 years’ worth of cable news on her eight VCRs; “Wild Combination,” a documentary about cult queer musician Arthur Russell, who died of AIDS in 1992; and “Teenage,” about the evolution of youth culture throughout history based on a book from Jon Savage. “Spaceship Earth,” which looks to blend Wolf’s interests in science and in counterculture, world-premiered in the US Documentary Competition of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, where it competed for the Grand Jury Prize.

“Spaceship Earth” is another entry in distributor Neon’s growing slate of distinctive documentary films, including last year’s “Honeyland,” which earned multiple Academy Award nominations, and “Apollo 11.” Watch the trailer below.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Film and tagged , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox