Sputnik Mania | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Sputnik Mania

Documentary recounts the year the Space race began.

On Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviets amazed the world by successfully launching a small satellite named "Sputnik" that began orbiting Earth. The Space Race – and its darker corollary, building weapons to be potentially deployed in space – was on, as the United States rushed to catch up. David Hoffman's documentary charts the year that followed Sputnik's launch, a time that found ordinary people variously awed and terrified by space technology, while in Moscow and Washington, D.C., a deadly brinksmanship rushed ahead. Stitched together from archival footage and contemporary interviews, Hoffman effectively lays out how extraordinary – and potentially dangerous – the watershed post-Sputnik year was. Modern audiences can also marvel over: kids urged to build rockets (described by one former enthusiast as "pipe bombs with fins"); home bomb-shelters; and the publicity perils of sending a cute dog into orbit. An obvious highlight here is recently released Soviet footage of Sputnik and other projects (plus some hilarious anti-U.S. propaganda) that lets Hoffman fill in the story from both sides. Starts Fri., Aug. 15, through Sun., Aug. 17. Melwood (AH)

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