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Movie Review

A Universal View of Mankind

By Marsha Freeman
April 2016

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A Beautiful Planet
IMAX Entertainment
Released April 2016
Runtime: 46 minutes

At a time when relations among nations in numerous regions around the globe are tense and fraught with danger, it is a time to step back and view the world from the standpoint of the astronauts and cosmonauts, whose vantage point in Earth orbit affords them a universal view of mankind. Although there have been photographs taken by crew members from space since the dawn of the Space Age, “A Beautiful Planet” presents more closely what the people in Earth orbit actually see, in three dimensions, and not as snapshots, but as the Earth goes by from their perch inside the International Space Station (ISS). Using the new technology of digital imaging, for the first time it is possible to see the striking differentiation between the electrically-lit developed, and underdeveloped “dark” regions of the world, as the Earth passes by, at night. Dozens of lightening strikes around the globe, and the stars beyond the Earth, are visible for the first time from space.

The film’s premier viewing in Washington was on April 22, 2016, Earth Day, and the film, itself, puts some emphasis on the “negative impact” mankind is having on the Earth. Interestingly, however, it is appropriately fusion power that is proposed as a possible future solution to providing for all of the Earth’s people, rather than an array of low-technology, anti-productive “renewables”.

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Although it was not a focus of the movie, which was filmed by U.S. astronauts on the ISS, the footage of the crews clearly reflects the comradery aboard the station, where any tensions between nations on Earth, as between the U.S. and Russia, are left behind. Russian cosmonauts participated in the film’s premier showing in New York.

By coincidence, three days before the April 22 preview of “A Beautiful Earth” at Washington’s National Air & Space Museum, at the same venue, The Carmel Institute of Russian Culture & History, at American University, held a symposium, titled, "Partners in Orbit.” The theme was, "U.S., Russia and the International Space Station.” The event included greetings from the cosmonauts currently on the ISS, and one of the highlights of the evening was the presentation to the Museum of a bust of Yuri Gagarin.

The history of international cooperation in space is a long one, as is the universal observation that from space, the Earth has no borders. “A Beautiful Planet,” as in previous 3D IMAX productions, allows the viewer to participate in the experience of space exploration. It will open in IMAX theaters on April 29th.