Russia has officially released the first-ever feature movie to have been partially filmed in space. Shot aboard the International Space Station (ISS), ‘The Challenge’, which premiered on Thursday in Russian cinemas, is being celebrated as a groundbreaking achievement in film-making.
The film focuses on a surgeon played by actress Yulia Peresild, who is sent to the ISS to perform an operation on a cosmonaut injured during a spacewalk.
In order to film the scenes in space, the actress, together with film director Klim Shipenko, had to undergo rigorous training for four months before traveling to the ISS, accompanied by cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, for a 12-day stay in October 2021. Shipenko was in charge of the camera, lighting, and sound while in orbit. The director brought a total of 30 hours of footage back from the trip, 50 minutes of which ended up in the final cut of the movie.
During his speech at the Kremlin dedicated to Cosmonautics Day on April 12, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that the ‘Challenge' film crew had performed “a real civil, human deed” and realized a “wonderful scientific and educational project.” He called the movie a “unique event for world cinema” and noted that “we are the first to have shot a feature film in orbit, aboard a spacecraft. Once again, the first.”
Russia has a rich history of pioneering space travel dating back to Soviet times and has registered a number of ‘firsts’, from launching the first satellite, ‘Sputnik’, to Yuri Gagarin, who became the first person to travel to space, to Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in orbit, to now having shot the first feature film in space.
‘Challenge’ producer Konstantin Ernst noted that while the film crew are all fans of the 2013 Hollywood blockbuster ‘Gravity’, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, Russia’s latest feature will make it clear that “the American picture is graphics” whereas “we have everything made with real butter. Real space, weightlessness, cosmonauts.”
In an interview ahead of the film’s release, Ernst revealed that the idea for the film first came up 23 years ago, but, due to undisclosed circumstances, could not be realized at the time. He also noted that the total cost of the project came out to less than one billion rubles ($12 million).
Hollywood also currently has plans to shoot a feature film in real space. In 2020, NASA confirmed that it is working with ‘Mission Impossible’ star Tom Cruise to shoot an action adventure flick aboard the ISS. Elon Musk’s SpaceX is also participating in the project and has offered to launch the actor into space aboard the Dragon capsule.