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The space race has expanded to new frontiers in recent years, moving into business, tourism … and now cinema.
The trailer outlines the movie’s plot: A surgeon, Zhenya, played by Russian actress Yulia Peresild, has to perform heart surgery on a sick cosmonaut in space because he is unable to return to Earth for treatment. The patient is portrayed by real-life cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy.
Produced by the Yellow, Black and White studio and Channel One Russia – a state-controlled TV station – alongside the country’s space agency, Roscomos, “the movie is aimed to popularize Russia’s space activities, as well as glorify (the) cosmonaut profession,” a statement announcing the project read.
Peresild and producer-director Klim Shipenko traveled to the International Space Station (ISS) – 250 miles above earth – alongside veteran Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov in October 2021 and filmed the movie over the course of 12 days.
Peresild was selected to star in the movie after Roscomos posted an open casting call in November 2020. In addition to providing an audition tape, prospective stars had to undergo medical, psychological and physical tests to ensure they could cope with the demands of space travel.
Just a few months after shooting on the ISS wrapped, Russia invaded Ukraine and later announced in July 2022 that it was planning to leave the space station – which it operates in partnership with NASA – after 2024.
Although “The Challenge” is the first feature-length film to be shot in space, it’s not the first project to be filmed aboard the ISS. Previous films include a 2002 IMAX documentary narrated by Tom Cruise and a 2012 eight-minute science fiction film by entrepreneur and space tourist Richard Garriott.
Cruise and director Doug Liman had hoped to nab the prize of first feature film shot in space, revealing in 2020 that they were working on a project in tandem with NASA and Elon Musk’s Space X.
“The Challenge” will be released on April 12.