THE DISH (2000) 
The above is just the trailer, come and see the real thing*
Charlton House, 7pm^ on Friday 14 Sep 2018 – FREE
As part of the Charlton & Woolwich Free Film Festival I’m putting on a free open-air screening of The Dish at Charlton House next month (with subtitles ON). Come and see this lovely film and have a look through a telescope too – we’ll be joined by the Flamsteed Astronomical Society. I am exceedingly happy about this event.
The Dish directed by Rob Sitch is one of my favourite films. It’s heartwarming and funny and in July 2018 was voted 16th (by Australian film critics) in the Top 25 Australian films released in the 21st century and it has an incredible 96% ‘fresh’ score on Rotten Tomatoes’ tomatometer.
The film is about the 1969 Apollo 11 Moon landing, specifically about the television picture signals that were sent from the surface of the Moon and picked up back home on Earth by the receiving radio telescope at the CSIRO Parkes Observatory in New South Wales – aka The Dish.
My friend visited the Parkes telescope not long after the
film was released and brought me this lovely souvenir
When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon they were understandably keen to get out and stretch their legs rather than undergo a scheduled rest period, but this caused a bit of a challenge. The timings meant that Moon hadn’t fully risen above the horizon and so wasn’t quite in sight of the Parkes dish.
In order to grab the television signals from the lunar module’s antenna the Parkes team had to orient the dish so that it was fully vertical and pointing at the horizon – but a windstorm turned up, putting the safety of the team and the integrity of the dish itself at risk…
L-R: Patrick Warburton as NASA’s Al Burnett, Sam Neill as director of the observatory Cliff Buxton, Tom Long as Glenn Latham and Kevin Harrington as Ross ‘Mitch’ Mitchell.
*The Real Thing by Russell Morris is one of many fabulous songs featuring in the film’s soundtrack, with a lovely score by Edmund Choi.
^Exact timings to follow
There is brief strong language and the film is certificate 12 in the UK.
Timings / telescopes
More info to come but it looks like the doors will open at 6.30pm, there’ll be a bit of time to grab a bite to eat (the Charlton House tea rooms will be open), look at the telescopes (or rather through them) and get comfy for the film. In a rather nice touch the Moon will be, somewhat disobligingly, only 20 or so degrees above the horizon meaning it might be a bit difficult to spot. Just like in the film!! Other stars / planets may be available, weather permitting.
It’s an outdoor screening so please consider your comfort – warm clothes and light rain protection (no umbrellas please!). If the weather doesn’t look promising we’ll move into the Library so the screening will go ahead regardless of the weather. You can bring camping seats but please sit behind those on mats so that their view is not obstructed.
Food / drink
Will be available from Charlton House.
Subtitles / accessibility
The film will be screened with subtitles on. Both Charlton House and the outdoor screening area are wheelchair accessible (and there is an accessible loo on the ground floor). There’s also a lift but won’t be needed for this visit.
Buses 53, 54, 380, 422 and 486 stop nearby. The 486 can be picked up from opposite Charlton rail station, the 380 turns onto the same road a little further up the (quite steep) hill. Charlton station is served by trains from Charing Cross, Waterloo, London Bridge, Cannon Street and, less frequently, Blackfriars and St Pancras (also West Hampstead and Luton).
From Blackheath it’s the 54, from Blackheath Standard 53, 54 (the 380 takes a more circuitous route) or 422, from Westcombe Park it’s the 422.
Further reading 📡〰️〰️〰️〰️〰️
- An Alternative Guide to Great Movies: The Dish (2000) (2017) by Andrew Clarke for the Ipswich Star
- Review of The Dish (2001) by Peter Bradshaw for The Guardian
- Inside the big dish that brought us TV from the Moon (2016) by Richard Hollingham for BBC Future
- Sarkissian, J.M. (2001) On Eagles’ Wings: The Parkes Observatory’s Support of the Apollo 11 Mission Publ. Astron. Soc. Aust., 18: 287–310 [PDF] [web version]