Oftentimes only a few people claim the spotlight during great historical moments. But there are plenty of unseen people doing their jobs in the background that help to make these watershed moments so triumphant. This wonderful Australian film by the same Working Dog crew that brought us The Castle presents a delightful behind-the-scenes look at the contributions of a handful of Aussies to the Apollo XI mission to the moon in July 1969.
When Mayor McIntyre (Roy Billing) of Parkes, a small town in New South Wales, finds out that the southern hemisphere's largest radio telescope will be used as a backup to transmit TV images of the Apollo XI moon landing, he is very proud of himself. He was responsible for setting up this football field sized scientific instrument in a sheep paddock outside town.
Cliff (Sam Neill), the senior scientist at "The Dish," as it is called, is honored to be able to participate in what he sees as the century's most daring scientific adventure. As a tribute to his recently deceased wife, who was a huge fan of the American moon project, he is filled with enthusiasm. His level-headedness comes in handy when Mitch (Kevin Harrington), a technician, expresses his contempt for the know-it-all attitude of Al Burnett (Patrick Warburton), a NASA consultant who has arrived from the United States. Meanwhile, Glenn (Tom Long), the brainy engineer, is quite distracted by the flirtations of Janine (Eliza Szonert), who delivers snacks to the scientists. Her zealous brother Rudi (Tayler Kane) takes his job as a security guard at the Dish quite seriously.
The excitement in Parkes increases as dignitaries arrive including the pompous Prime Minister (Billie Brown) and the U.S. Ambassador (John McMartin), who is an outer space buff. The only one in the town not tickled pink about the lunar landing is the mayor's rebellious daughter Marie (Lenka Kripac). Her major concern is fending off the affections of army reservist Keith (Matthew Moore) who stands for everything she finds distasteful.
Based on a true story and filled with archival footage from the Apollo XI mission, The Dish revolves around the daunting challenges the Aussie scientists face in getting ready for Armstrong's first step on the moon. A power failure just hours before the scheduled walk is bad enough. Then a freak wind storm threatens their ability to move the Dish into position. As the four "little people" in Australia face a critical decision, Cliff's wife's words seem very relevant: "Failure is never quite so frightening as regret."
That alone would be a good message to take from this movie. But the real heart-and-soul of The Dish is the process whereby the three Australian scientists and the NASA consultant learn to tame their egos in pursuing their common goal. This sense of unity is a distinguishing mark of spiritual awareness. Or as is written in the Bhagavad Gita: "They live in wisdom who see themselves in all and all in them."
For one brief shining moment the walk of a human being on the moon brought 600 million people around the world together. The Dish magnifies that moment by sharing the stories of four unheralded scientists who learned to work as one in the transmission of those glorious images.