Hot Docs 2016: Operation Avalanche – Matt Johnson


It’s right there in the title, Operation Avalanche, it’s a snow job. This faux documentary is played straight, pretending to be a film edited together from film shot by a pair of agents (Matt Johnson and Owen Williams) posing as filmmakers, working on a documentary about the Apollo program at the height of the Space Race in the 60s.

Actual NASA and stock footage is combined with staged scenes of actors and plot points to reveal the big ‘secret’ that NASA was unable to get the LEM to the surface of the moon, so the landings had to be faked.

Using some movie magic, as well as perfectly framed shots and strategically placed production design, Owen and Matt appear to be in the 1960s, working for the CIA. And watching the two of them come up with iconic moments and images from the landing is laugh-inducing.

But, the deeper they find themselves in the conspiracy to fool the American public and the world at large, the more dangerous their continued existence proves to be. It’s a good thing, they are shooting everything.

Seeing how they touch on aspects of the still, strangely prevalent conspiracy theory is very well executed, in fact the inevitable encounter with Stanley Kubrick, who was hard at work on 2001: A Space Odyssey at the time is perfectly constructed.

Inspired in its execution and fun, entertaining, to watch this one delighted the audience. Unfortunately, the screening on Friday night was the only screening of the film at the festival.



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