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Arts & Culture

Podcast Episode 91: Spock, NASA, And A Real Documentary Versus A Fake One

Adam Nimoy at about age 10 visits his father Leonard Nimoy on the set of "Star Trek." This is just one of the images Adam Nimoy shares in his documentary "For the Love of Spock."
Adam Nimoy
Adam Nimoy at about age 10 visits his father Leonard Nimoy on the set of "Star Trek." This is just one of the images Adam Nimoy shares in his documentary "For the Love of Spock."

A real doc on Spock and a mockumentary about a faked lunar landing open at theaters

91: Spock, NASA, and Real Versus Fake Documentaries
Episode 91: Spock, NASA, And Real Versus Fake DocumentariesOne real documentary and one fake one: Adam Nimoy talks about "For the Love of Spock" and his relationship with his father Leonard Nimoy, and Matt Johnson talks about sneaking into NASA to make a mockumentary about a faked lunar landing. Subscribe to the Cinema Junkie podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcatcher.Support the podcast at kpbs.org/feedthejunkie.

Sometimes there’s just too much good stuff to cover so this week I am going to talk with a pair of filmmakers from wildly divergent films but what makes them fun to combine into one podcast is that one is a real documentary — "For the Love of Spock" — and one is a fake documentary — "Operation Avalanche."

With "For the Love of Spock," Adam Nimoy has created an intimate and fascinating documentary about his famous father Leonard Nimoy and the iconic character of Spock that his dad created on the original "Star Trek" TV series in the 1960s. Matt Johnson, on the other hand, has created a clever and often hilarious fake documentary called "Operation Avalanche" about two young CIA agents who create footage of a fake lunar landing for NASA in 1967. But both films serve up great cinematic experiences for filmgoers so don’t miss either.

Adam Nimoy began making "For the Love of Spock" with his father and the focus was to be on the famous character created by Gene Roddenberry in the 1960s. Adam Nimoy will be in San Diego on Sept. 21 and 22 to screen the film and hold Q&A's as part of a San Diego Jewish Film Festival special event.

When Adam’s father died last year before the film was finished, the documentary changed from being just about Spock to being about Spock, Leonard Nimoy, and also about the relationship of a father and his son.

The documentary uses archive footage, family photos and video, as well as new interviews with a diverse array of people who knew Leonard Nimoy or who were influenced by him. The film gives us insights into how the character of Spock evolved through both old interviews intercut with new ones.

Matt Johnson directs and stars in the fake documentary "Operation Avalanche," about CIA agents faking footage of the lunar landing.
Lionsgate
Matt Johnson directs and stars in the fake documentary "Operation Avalanche," about CIA agents faking footage of the lunar landing.

From this warm, intimate, real documentary let’s take a wild leap to the fake documentary world created by "Operation Avalanche." The film begins with something real, newsreel footage of President John F. Kennedy talking about the space race. That we know is real, right? But what follows — about the CIA, a mole in NASA, and America’s inability to land on the moon before the Russians — that’s all fake, right?

That’s what filmmaker Matt Johnson is interested in creating, a film where people keep asking themselves which part is real and which is fake? That’s complicated even further by the fact that Johnson and his cohorts infiltrated NASA and Shepperton Studios to shoot footage that is used in the film.

"Operation Avalanche" is a found footage film but it’s one that reinvigorates the tired gimmick with true inspiration and craft. Imagine if Christopher Guest directed a paranoid conspiracy thriller as a documentary and then add in a dash of Quentin Tarantino's passionate love of cinema and that begins to convey what the film's like.

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