Sundance 2023: Radical, The Longest Farewell | Festivals and awards

“Radical” saves its most challenging material for the philosophies within, such as viewing education as a process that requires revitalization and inspiration, not the discipline and tight schedule put in place before Sergio arrived. And in the scheme of all the movies that “Radical” makes you think of, Zalla cleverly angles it as Sergio vs. the expectations of standardized tests and all the stuffy ideals they bring.

There’s no inherent problem with aiming to be a crowd pleaser, but that focus becomes more frustrating with “Radical” than it should. Zalla’s film occupies that strange place where something inspired by a true story—and this one has a fantastic, factual epilogue—is softened and expanded so much that even the heartwarming real-life feels too good to be true.

Within the next ten years, NASA plans to put people on a ship that will hopefully reach Mars. The big predicament tackled by “The Longest Goodbye” is not whether the technology can work, but the human factor. Such a voyage will be an enormous feat of “prolonged isolation,” with crew members spending months with each other in cramped quarters and years away from their families. This is not how humans have been wired, and many different minds are at the forefront of finding a solution.

Ido Mizrahy’s “The Longest Goodbye,” a curious but overly dry documentary that premiered yesterday in the festival’s World Cinema Documentary section, spins in circles as it brings together various possibilities offered by the scientists. Ideas such as communicating with loved ones in virtual reality, talking to a floating robot head called CIMON and hibernation are profiled here as windows into the future, originally provided with dreams from science fiction. These possibilities are juggled with some curiosity, but the way they are shared here, a la rotating presentations at a conference, gives it little narrative momentum, which is jarring compared to the high stakes of space exploration.

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