First Man, the highly anticipated new movie from director Damien Chazelle (La La Land), starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, premiered earlier this week at the Venice Film Festival.
But instead of positive reviews, the first public screening of the movie courted controversy over the film’s failure to show the planting of the U.S. flag by Armstrong (who died in 2012) and Buzz Aldrin in their historic 1969 journey to the moon.
Though the flag can be seen waving on the moon’s surface in several shots, Aldrin dubbed the choice to omit the iconic scene, “un-American.” He also tweeted photos of himself and Armstrong planting the flag, with the hashtag “#proudtobeamerican #freedom #honor #onenation.”
Gosling inadvertently fuelled the fire while in Venice, when he said that Armstrong never considered himself an “American hero,” and felt his journey to the moon “transcended countries and borders.”
In response, Republican senator Marco Rubio called Gosling’s statement “total lunacy,” while Ted Cruz proclaimed the film to be “consistent with Leftists disrespecting the flag and denying American exceptionalism.”
Chazelle said he wasn’t interested in making a political statement with the film, and instead chose to make it a depiction of Armstrong’s personal journey.