Theo Kamecke lives alone in and on five acres of breathtaking art in the Catskill Mountains. The man simply must create art — whether it’s a garden, a home furnished with handmade everything, a meal for guests, or a log bench overlooking a roaring, foaming brook so powerful that it could sweep you to your death in a nanosecond.
In his barn-size studio, Theo makes sculptures, wall pieces, and functional art objects from the collection of electronic circuit boards he began accumulating forty years ago for no reason other than he thought they were beautiful. With patterns that look like hieroglyphs and names like Nefertiti and Isis and Manifest Destiny, his child-size treasure chests and majestic pyramids, cabinets and jukeboxes, tables and wall plaques feel simultaneously ancient, familiar, and futuristic (see TheoKamecke.com). “I like to understand how things work,” he says, to explain what drives him.
So it makes sense that he would create a poetic, totally unexpected documentary about the first moonwalk. It makes sense that this chain-smoking seventy-two-year-old would choose to see such an event through the eyes of all humanity, rather than focus on the personalities of the astronauts and the hype that a younger filmmaker might choose. But what’s surprising is that Theo made his award-winning documentary with the eyes of a seventy-two-year-old at the age of thirty-two.
Forty years ago, six months before the launch of Apollo 11, NASA called. “Do a time capsule,” said the head of their PR department. The result is a visionary film called Moonwalk One that has just been restored and remastered as a two-DVD “Director’s Cut” that includes a stunning explanation from the seventy-two-year-old illuminating the thirty-two-year-old’s birthing process. For Theo, this event was about much more than a walk on the moon. It was about our culture and the millions around the globe who gathered in front of TVs, the thousands of campers who made the pilgrimage to Cape Canaveral even though TV offered a closer view, the half-million people who made the launch happen, and the three billion earthlings who went about their daily lives unaware of the event. “They were involved even though they didn’t know they were,” says Theo. “They were the same humans.”
With a film score by conceptual composer Charles Morrow that sounds contemporary — sometimes spine-tingling, sometimes unexpectedly sacred … or silent — the film makes you feel as concerned today for the astronauts’ welfare as were the motherly sewers who stitched their spacesuits: “When they’re up there in space, you know what parts you’ve worked on and you just say, ‘I hope that part don’t fail because I’d feel it was my fault if it did.’”
Bracketed by scenes of Stonehenge, the film takes off with the violent launch of Apollo 11 on a roaring, fiery tail of pure power that could incinerate you in a nanosecond, and lands with ticker tape parades — presenting the events in the wide-angle context of our common search to understand who we are, what we are, and where we are on this “fragile bubble of life, afloat on a sea of nothing.”
“It was a moment sensed more than understood,” wrote the thirty-two-year-old filmmaker.
“I realized that in order for this film to be effective, the audience now or fifty years from now or three thousand years from now has to understand what’s going on,” says the seventy-two-year-old artist. “If they don’t understand what’s going on, they can’t absorb the poetry of it.”