Film festivals are fun. When I attend them, I appreciate the “festive” aspect; some feel like weekend holidays for filmmakers and film lovers. Films are also one of the most effective tools in generating wonderment and flights of fancy. For me, one of the few things that come close in that regard is the power of flight. Aviation and space exploration bring me wonder beyond belief and are stark visual examples of the human ability to reach new heights that we can’t see. When you mix the two together, the effect is tenfold.
My film festival is based on flight. There are twenty entries, and they have been ranked in regards to romanticism of flight, proportion of film attention given to flight, and how flight harvests inspiration to motivate audiences to help humanity reach further into the sky.
They are ranked as such:
- The Wind Rises, 2013
- October Sky, 1999
- The Right Stuff, 1983
- Treasure Planet, 2002
- Castle in the Sky, 1986
- Top Gun, 1986
- Empire of the Sun, 1987
- The Astronaut Farmer, 2006
- Flight of the Phoenix, 2004
- Apollo 13, 1995
- Memphis Belle, 1990
- Interstellar, 2014
- Up, 2009
- The Aviator, 2004
- Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, 2004
- WALL-E, 2008
- Dunkirk, 2017
- Around the World in 80 Days, 2004
- Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, 2001
- Independence Day, 1996
Organization is key to be able to articulately process a large set of similar films. Hypothetically, to fit them all into one weekend, I would clump them into groups for different audiences and tastes to be screened at different venues at the same time. This way it isn’t hard to find films congruent to audience tastes, the audiences can bond and gain a synchronized immersion in the on-screen world of flight, and wanting to see different subgenres also leads to exploring the different venues around the festival. The top three films (The Wind Rises, October Sky, and The Right Stuff) will be shown in a finale block in the largest venue, with nothing else showing at the time.
The Wind Rises is a Studio Ghibli film that narrates the creative process and life of the plane designer for the mainstay WWII Japanese fighter plane, the “Zero.” The designer works tirelessly to fulfill his dream of making beautiful planes, but he also struggles with giving attention to his sick wife and avoiding or ignoring the violent consequences of his work.
October Sky is a warm drama set in a 1950s coal mining town. A young man in high school and his friends start a club to explore the possibilities of space flight. They design, build, and launch model rockets to the dismay of their parents, who want them to go into mining or the family business and not waste their time trying to get scholarships to study aerospace engineering.
The Right Stuff is a biopic on the Gemini astronauts, Chuck Yeager, and their families. The film focuses on the character traits — the right stuff, if you will — that let these men fly above the rest of the world and into the new one, the Space Age. These astronauts and test pilots struggle with bureaucratic hogtying, careers running out of fuel, and the dangers of going where no one has gone before. They stand together and stand alone to stand above the limitations of keeping our species on the ground.
We are coming together to celebrate humanity rising collectively. Although you can see these films on your own and have a personal encounter with the ideas of aviation, assembling a large group of people to focus on that pivotal aspect would be formative. Maybe we can get SpaceX to sponsor or host the event, with Elon Musk giving opening and closing remarks for the festival. Having that real-world application surrounding the festival would ensure that the culturing of these ideas would not fizzle out into “wouldn’t that be nice.” Onwards and upwards, back from whence we came, no matter the weight.
Felix Carlson is a junior at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. This festival is based off his Letterboxd list titled “Simple Plane Love.” His grandfather, Bob Carlson, was a McDonnell-Douglas aerospace engineer during the Apollo project, where he was one of the team leaders the Saturn V rocket. He worked on the third and final stage of the rocket, the booster that brought us to the moon. Although Felix may never do this, the open-ended dream of space travel and flight has been a major contributor toward his open-ended love for the power of cinema. Hopefully he’ll get his pilot’s license one day.