2017 Sundance Docs in Focus: THE MARS GENERATION

mars generationTHE MARS GENERATION
Michael Barnett checks in with the would-be astronauts of the future.

Festival Section:
Kids

Sundance Program Description:

Since NASA’s first mission to Mars in 1964, humanity has seen the planet as the ideal target for the first interplanetary space mission. In THE MARS GENERATION, director Michael Barnett delves into space exploration’s history and current state while looking beyond technology to what we will really need to get to the Red Planet: the power of youthful dreams.

Through amazing archival footage of the space program as well as interviews with a number of scientists and astronauts – including Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, and Sunita Williams – Barnett provides an overview of the history and current state of space exploration. The film juxtaposes this with a revealing and intimate look at participants in NASA’s space camp for youth. These self-proclaimed “space nerds” aspire to be the scientists, engineers, and technicians on whose shoulders humanity will reach the Red Planet. Their infectious passion and optimism is the heart of the film, leaving little doubt that if given the support and opportunities they need, they will get us there.

Some Background:
Director/Director of Photography:

  • Michael Barnett
    Barnett’s third documentary feature is his first Sundance credit, but he has done camerawork on Sundance narrative alums including ADVENTURES OF POWER (2008) and ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW (2005). His most recent film was BECOMING BULLETPROOF.

Producers:

Co-Producer:

  • Lauren Estevez
    Estevez was a production coordinator on Sundance alum HOLY HELL (2016), but this marks her first feature producing credit.

Consulting Producers:

  • Doug Blush
    Previous Sundance docs:

    HOLY HELL (consulting editor)
    JIM: THE JAMES FOLEY STORY (2016, consulting editor)
    THE HUNTING GROUND (2015, associate producer/editor)
    RICH HILL (2014, editorial advisor)
    20 FEET FROM STARDOM (2013, supervising editor)
    THE INVISIBLE WAR (2012, associate producer/editor)
    THESE AMAZING SHADOWS (2011, associate producer/editor)
    TROUBADOURS (2011)
    IOUSA (2008, editor)
    WORDPLAY (2006, editor)

    Blush is also a consultant on fellow 2017 Sundance title ICARUS. He previously executive produced Barnett’s first feature SUPERHEROES.

  • Theodore James
    Past Sundance docs:

    IOUSA (associate producer)

    James also produced Barnett’s previous features.

Executive Producers:

  • Alexandra Johnes
    Past Sundance docs:

    HOLY HELL (producer)
    THE SQUARE (2013, co-producer/executive producer)
    THE HOUSE I LIVE IN (2012, consulting producer)
    REAGAN (2011, consulting producer)
    MAGIC TRIP (2011, producer)
    CASINO JACK AND THE UNITED STATES OF MONEY (2010, co-producer)

    The Emmy-winning Johnes and former Jigsaw Productions exec also executive produced the Sundance fiction feature THE WITCH (2015).

  • Ben Cotner
    Past Sundance docs:

    THE CASE AGAINST 8 (2014, director, US Documentary Directing Award)

    The Emmy-nominated Cotner is director, original documentaries for Netflix. He formerly was an acquisitions exec for Open Road Films and Paramount Pictures.

  • Jason Spingarn-Koff
    Past Sundance docs:

    NOTES ON BLINDNESS (2016)
    VERBATIM: THE FERGUSON CASE (short) (2016)
    NOTES ON BLINDNESS (short film) (2014)
    LIFE 2.0 (2010, director/editor)

    The director, original documentary programming at Netflix was formerly the commissioning editor of The New York Times Op-Docs section.

  • Lisa Nishimura
    Past Sundance docs:

    AUDRIE & DAISY (2016)
    SKY LADDER: THE ART OF CAI GUO-QIANG (2016)
    CHELSEA DOES (docuseries) (2016)
    WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE? (2015)
    THE BATTERED BASTARDS OF BASEBALL (2014)
    E-TEAM (2014)
    MITT (2014)
    THE SQUARE (2013)

    Nishimura is VP, original documentary and comedy programming at Netflix.

  • Edward Felsenthal
    This is the first Sundance credit for Time Inc’s Felsenthal. Prior to Time, he co-founded The Daily Beast and was deputy managing editor of The Wall Street Journal.

  • Ian Orefice
    This is also Orefice’s first Sundance project. The Emmy Award-winning Time Inc exec also had stints at Sports Illustrated and CNN.

  • Jonathan Woods
    Time’s Woods also claims his first Sundance credit with this project. His past work include the Emmy-nominated A YEAR IN SPACE for Time/PBS.

Editors:

  • Michael Mahaffie
    Past Sundance docs:

    HOLY HELL (additional editor)

    Mahaffie also assistant edited SUPERHEROES and BECOMING BULLETPROOF.

  • Derek Boonstra
    Past Sundance docs:

    THE HUNTING GROUND
    THE INVISIBLE WAR

    Boonstra also cut both of Barnett’s previous features.

Why You Should Watch:
Weaving in the aspirations of the next generation of space explorers with the views of past astronauts and scientists, Barnett compellingly demonstrates the need to reawaken our broader society’s interest in space – for everyone’s sake. The doc receives a larger spotlight at the festival as the Salt Lake City Opening Night Film.

More Info:
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For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance 2017 Twitter list.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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