A first. A fiction feature film shot in orbit was released Thursday, April 20 in theaters in Russia, with a title particularly evocative in a context of new space ambitions of Moscow facing Washington: "The challenge".

To shoot this film, which features a surgeon dispatched to the International Space Station (ISS) to operate on an injured cosmonaut, Russia sent an actress and a director into orbit in October 2021 for 12 days.

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The project, carried out at a brisk pace to get ahead of a competing US initiative with Tom Cruise, has become an object of pride in Russia, reminiscent of the space competition between Moscow and Washington during the Cold War.

"First to tour"

"We are the first to have shot a fiction feature film aboard a ship in orbit, again the first," said Vladimir Putin on April 12, who often plays on nostalgia for the Soviet era, when Moscow sent for example the first man into space in 1961.

The film is co-produced by the Russian space agency Roscosmos and the television channel Pervy Kanal, whose leader, Konstantin Ernst, does not hide his joy at having beaten Hollywood.

"We are all fans of 'Gravity,'" a Hollywood film about space released in 2013, Konstantin Ernst said Monday at a press conference to present the Russian film.

"But our 'Challenge', shot in real weightlessness, brings out today the digital special effects" of the American film, he teased.

The sequences shot in the 230 m3 of the Russian module of the ISS and the participation of the three Russian professional cosmonauts stationed on board give an effect of authenticity to the film, screened in preview by AFP.


"The Challenge" tells the story of the impossible mission of a surgeon, played by actress Yulia Peressild, sent to the ISS to rescue a cosmonaut injured by debris during a spacewalk.

Director Klim Chipenko, 39, who handled the camera, lighting and sound recording, recorded 30 hours of footage, 50 minutes of which are used in the final editing.

The camera follows the 38-year-old actress as she moves through the cramped space of the ISS, her blonde hair floating weightlessly. The two neo-cosmonauts underwent a four-month accelerated training before being sent into space.

The film cost "less than a billion rubles" (11.1 million euros), according to Konstantin Ernst.

With AFP

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