Neil Armstrong’s Sons Answer Critics On First Man Patriotism Issue

Credit: Daniel McFadden/Universal

First Man is the story of Neil Armstrong’s journey to becoming the first human to walk on the surface of another world.

Director Damien Chazelle’s biopic got rave reviews at its premiere at the Venice Film Festival last week, but has received criticism for not showing the planting of the American flag.

Amongst the critics was Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who branded the omission “Total Lunacy”, saying it was a “disservice” at a time the US needed a reminder of what can be done “when we work together”.

Star Ryan Gosling has already defended the decision to omit the flag-planting, saying it was decided to concentrate on the undertaking as a human achievement.

Now Neil Armstrong’s sons have also defended the decision, saying it’s not a question of patriotism or otherwise.

Rick and Mark Armstrong were joined in their statement by First Man author James R. Hansen. The full statement reads:

“We’ve read a number of comments about the film today and specifically about the absence of the flag-planting scene, made largely by people who haven’t seen the movie. As we’ve seen it multiple times, we thought maybe we should weigh in.

This is a film that focuses on what you don’t know about Neil Armstrong. It’s a film that focuses on things you didn’t see or may not remember about Neil’s journey to the Moon. The filmmakers spent years doing extensive research to get at the man behind the myth, to get at the story behind the story. It’s a movie that gives you unique insight into the Armstrong family and fallen American Heroes like Elliot See and Ed White. It’s a very personal movie about our dad’s journey, seen through his eyes.

This story is human and it is universal. Of course, it celebrates an American achievement. It also celebrates an achievement ‘For All Mankind’ as it says on the plaque Neil and Buzz left on the moon. It is a story about an ordinary man who makes profound sacrifices and suffers through intense loss in order to achieve the impossible.

Although Neil didn’t see himself that way, he was an American hero. He was also an engineer and pilot, a father and a friend, a man who suffered privately through great tragedies with incredible grace. This is why, though there are numerous shots of the American flag on the moon, the filmmakers chose to focus on Neil looking back at the Earth, his walk to Little West Crater, his unique, personal experience of completing this journey, a journey that has seen so many incredible highs and devastating lows.

In short, we do not feel this movie is anti-American in the slightest. Quite the opposite. But don’t take our word for it. We’d encourage everyone to go see this remarkable film and see for themselves.”

First Man can be seen at Canada’s TIFF on September 9th, then goes on general release on October 11th.

Carolyn Hucker