Houston We Have a Problem! – BFI LFF – Review

With classified documents now available for revision, director Ziga Viric looks at the Yugoslav Space Programme and how it created a time of prosperity under Tito’s reign after selling it to the American’s, yet may have been his greatest mistake with a consequence that left a country once united into a bloody divorce.

After an introductory analysis from Slovenian cultural theorist and philosopher, Slavoj Žižek of when a lie is perceived as truth, we are introduced to the elderly NASA scientist Pavic, who is in a wheelchair and along with the crew, about to embark on a journey to the land of his birth, where he has not been since Tito sent him to work for NASA secretly, leaving behind his wife and the daughter he never saw, being reunited for the first time. Offering an opposing opinion is the former counter intelligence officer, an almost antagonist to Pavic and appears unapologetic in the pain he may have caused to him. Featuring in the laugh section, the humour is almost inadvertent rather than engineered. Pavic feels a need to reminisce with his long lost daughter, but she is not much impressed or interested in the need to revisit the physical locations of his past. Equally the boyish enthusiasm from the NASA historian also provides some good feel smiles.

Whilst Pavic provides a very human angle to the documentary, it’s the events itself that provide the fascination. Viric has neatly stitched together found footage and conversations between Tito and the American leaders who inevitably felt conned after being sold something other than what they were promised.

The additional analysis of Slavoj Žižek seems an extra layer of academia that is slightly unnecessary and highlights that maybe the director is wanting to add more depth and speculation to the film than is really needed. Whilst all it’s threads tonally don’t feel in sync, Viric has crafted together a film that makes him an excitable documentarian to pay attention to for the future.

Chris Aitken

★★★★

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