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SXSW (At Home): ‘Red Heaven’ Review

‘Red Heaven’ starts off about space travel and ends up about humanity.

AIPT will continue some of its planned coverage of SXSW. We have been in contact with creators and their representatives in order to continue to give films coverage. We will respect all embargoes and work to give these films and our readers the coverage we had planned.

Mars has always been a fascinating subject for space travel. As a possible second home planet to a possible headquarters for alien invaders, people have looked with curiosity at the Red Planet. Red Heaven is a documentary that looks at a six people attempting to live on “Mars” for one year.  Red Heaven follows six scientists who are going to spend 365 days in a geodesic dome. They fill out thousands of surveys in a psychological study aimed to determine if humans can handle being locked up in a shuttle for one year.

The purpose of the experiment is interesting on its own. There have been many horror stories (The Twilight Zone has many examples) based around how well a person can handle complete isolation. Of course, these are works of fiction. As great as these stories may be, the audience realizes there is no true consequence. Once the show ends, so does the danger.

Since Red Heaven is centered around real people, each interaction contains more meaning. The inevitable conflicts that arises and every unexpected side effect becomes incredibly captivating. Something as simple as a broken water pipe becomes an exciting study in social interactions. It is a mental endurance test that is impossible to look away from.

The documentary was shot by the crew inside the simulated shuttle. This leads to a cinema verite style that suits Red Heaven. The improvisational camera work perfectly captures the mood of the crew. The excitement seen early on is replaced with tension and snarky comments later. The in your face style also adds to the feeling of isolation felt by the six.

This rising tensions are seen most when one of the crew members is asked about socializing. There is no privacy and almost everything can be heard. In a series of quick shots, Red Heaven shows how seemingly innocuous habits can lead to frustration. It is telling that something as innocent as the length of an email is enough to anger someone.

Red Heaven is an engaging story about humanity. The idea of traveling to Mars is certainly intriguing, but the interactions are what is most fascinating. More about human behavior than space travel, filmmakers Lauren DeFilippo and Katherine Gorringe have made one of the most engaging documentaries about Mars to be found.


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