2020 AFI FEST
Werner Herzog is the rare director who can shift between documentary and narrative films with ease. Best known for Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) and Fitzcarraldo (1982) both starring Klaus Kinski with the common theme of obsession. His documentaries have sometimes been accused of being exploitative [Grizzly Man (2005) or not completely truthful but are always watchable. Festival favorite Lessons of Darkness (1992) consists almost entirely of footage from the oil fires in Kuwait at the end of the first Gulf War.
Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds is the latest of the science-based documentary films he’s made with Clive Oppenheimer who’s aboard this time as co–director. They travel the world looking for meteorites and crash sites, guided by leading authorities in the field. As with climate change, most people don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the next big meteor strike that could turn a continent into ash. But, as an expert on Hindu culture says in the film, the visitors from space can destroy but also deliver “the seeds of life.”
The filmmakers visit disparate cultures from Middle Eastern Muslim to native Australian. Each has their unique way of explaining what the meteorites are and where they came from. As one of the scientists says, quoting Joni Mitchell, ” We are stardust.”
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Available on AppleTV+