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It's difficult to avoid the moral lurking in the frames of the new Hollywood movie Interstellar—an exhausted earth, ravaged by blight and windstorms, drives NASA to secretly explore the options in space for a new start. Directed by a 'British-American', the movie is certainly gripping, but it's as difficult not to notice that a very small piece of the world stands in for the Earth (endless cornfields in an anonymous American midwest), or that the answer to the problem of what to do next is tackled and solved by a handful of Americans. The one exception is a doddery Michael Caine, the fantasy Oxbridge physicist, who it turns out is a bit too keen to play with people's lives in the interest of his own fantasy of populating a new planet with test tube babies (we must assume born of American sperm). When a small American team led by the astronaut-cum-farmer 'Cooper' [Matthew McConaughey) takes off into space to explore new planets, it's the American flag (sometimes looking a little worn) that gets planted on behalf of humanity. And in case we didn't get the point, the last frame mimes a ring of billowing covered wagons around a campfire, in a landscape that could just accommodate the wilderness of the American west of the pioneer imagination, although it's now populated mainly with robots.
The contrast to the vision of the latter half of the 20th century, embodied in the 'Federation' that was Star Trek's multicultural galaxy (spawned in 1966, at the height of the United Nations Development Decade, and the US Peace Corps), and even the 1924 Soviet movie Aelita, could not be starker. In each case, it's hard not to see the future miming the present, but their 'presentism' with all its limits, still envisions a world where action occurs globally in multiple frames, among diverse peoples. There is, in effect, nothing inter-national, or even federational, about inter-stellar. It appears as a national fantasy about a future where only American action and the revival of an American Pioneer spirit counts. Is it also a marker of the contracted international/global imaginaries of the 21st century? It's hard to imagine it as anything else...

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