Review – HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM! (“Houston, imamo problem!,” Žiga Virc, 2016, Slovenia / Croatia / Germany / Czech Republic / Qatar)

Houston We Have a Problem posterA film about a conspiracy to question the validity of all conspiracy theories. Houston, We Have a Problem! tells the untold story of the intricate, tense, and dangerous Cold War event where Yugoslavia sold its space program to the United States.

Director Ziga Virc constructs his film like a straight-up investigative documentary. He makes extensive use of credible contributions by numerous people, including Slovenian psychoanalyst Slavoj Zizek and people who were allegedly directly involved in the deal at the time. It also uses archive footage, such as news footage of Tito’s 1963 state visit to the United States (during which he survived an assassination attempt on his life), and legitimate audio recordings from the time. However, the interviews are staged, the footage has been adapted to suit Virc’s narrative, and the audio has been doctored, sometimes even in order to create phone conversations that never truly took place. Montage enthusiast Sergej Eisenstein would have been proud.

In fact, the deal that Houston, We Have a Problem! talks about never actually happened. Virc himself called his film a “docu-fiction.” Nonetheless, it initially confused many viewers when it first premiered at film festivals. Steve Pond of The Wrap wrote of the film’s Tribeca Film Festival screening that “it undoubtedly left some baffled festivalgoers wondering just what to believe – which Virc admitted in a post-screening Q&A on Saturday, is exactly the point.”

It is therefore clear that Virc’s intention was not only to question conspiracy theories, as mentioned earlier, but to show how vulnerable facts are and how easily history may be re-written. Yet, there’s more: because Houston, We Have a Problem! is legitimately engaging and entertaining, it also effectively makes worrying observations on the link between “entertainment” and “information,” and questions the validity of the forms and tones used for the proliferation of facts and news. – ★★★★

HOUSTON, IMAMO PROBLEM | 2016, Slovenia / Croatia / Germany / Czech Republic / Qatar | Documentary | Directed by – Žiga Virc / Produced by – Boštjan Virc / Written by – Žiga Virc, Boštjan Virc / Cinematography – Andrej Virc / Editing by – Vladimir Gojun / Running time: 98 mins.

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