Hot Docs 2021: Our Review of ‘Red Heaven’

Hot Docs 2021: Our Review of ‘Red Heaven’

As the dream of settling on Mars slowly becomes reality, there remain questions and concerns that still need to be answered. Lauren DeFilippo and Katherine Goringe direct Red Heaven. It provides an under-the-dome look as NASA creates a simulated Mars experience for six volunteers in a remote area of Hawaii. Isolated from family and friends for a year, these men and women are asked to document their experiences. These documents can help others gain insight regarding the effects of a Mars mission on its crew.

While the film takes place years before the current pandemic, the timeliness of Red Heaven is undeniable. Heaven places emphasis on the psychological effects of isolation. It shows what hell it can be to be confined with the same people for extended periods of time. Relationships are strained with few other options for human contact. Small issues like playing guitar, water usage and storage of plants cause increasing friction. With the loss of time and variety, the crew find it increasingly difficult to deal with the tedium and start to turn on one another. (In one particularly revealing personal video, one crew member confesses that, “It’s Sunday but that means nothing to me. There is only day and night, today and tomorrow.”)

At the same time though, the film also shows how having a united goal can bring people together. Despite their squabbles, these petty differences fall away when problems arise that affect them all. They eventually focus on more than their day-to-day monotony. Working on something greater than themselves gives them the opportunity to pull together in unison. In these moments, the mission matters most. As the days grow longer and the problems rise, Red Heaven highlights our need for one another—and the necessity of personal space.

Steve Norton
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Born at a very early age, Steve is a Toronto-based writer and podcaster who loves to listen to what matters to our culture on screen. When he first saw Indiana Jones steal the cross of Coronado, he knew his world would never be the same and, since then, he’s found more and more excuses to digest what’s in front of him onscreen. Also, having worked as a youth and community minister for almost 20 years, he learned that stories help everyone engage the world around them. He’s a proud hubby, father (x2) and believes that Citizen Kane, Batman Forever (yes, the Kilmer one), and The Social Network belong in the same conversation. You can hear his ramblings on ScreenFish Radio wherever podcasts are gettable or at his website, ScreenFish.net.
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