The cold war, the space race, and NASA’s moon landing are iconic events that defined an era. They are also fodder for conspiracy theories. In Houston, We Have a Problem! filmmaker Žiga Virc explores the myth of a secret multi-billion-dollar deal involving America’s purchase of Yugoslavia’s space program in the early 1960s.
This masterfully crafted feature-length docu-fiction is an intriguing blend of reality and fiction that recreates recent history through the prism of conspiracy theories. It invites the audience to make up its own mind about what is invented and what is real. In between the blurred lines of reality and fiction, Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek asks the billion-dollar question: ‘What is truth?’
Using a wealth of archive footage, the film brings together all the strands of the myth through an eyewitness account from Ivan, a senior space engineer in the controversial Yugoslav space program.
After WW2, Yugoslav intelligence reveals the existence of long-lost space technology plans to their strongman Josip Broz Tito. Trapped between east and west, President Tito decides to exploit this opportunity for his new socialist state of Yugoslavia by secretly developing an ambitious space program. In March 1961, the program is sold to the U.S. Two months later President John F. Kennedy announces that the first American will be sent to the Moon. Regardless of what really happened, millions of people believe this is the historical truth, and that the two events are connected.
50 years after the Yugoslav secret service faked his death and sent him to America to work for NASA, Ivan finally returns home for an awkward reunion with the daughter he has never met. American historian Roger McMillan reconstructs the chain of events from the 1960s, using recently declassified documents. Together with Franc, a retired general from the Yugoslav People’s Army who worked on both the national space program and the cover-up, they reveal a complex web of secrets, lies, manipulation and the dirty games of politics. Using first-person accounts and never-before-seen archive footage, the filmmakers reveal the full story of a pioneering space research program kept hidden for over half a century, as well as the test site where everything began, Object 505. This Yugoslav airforce base – now abandoned and heavily mined – once played a crucial, role in the space race. In the mid 1960s it was the biggest underground complex in Europe: a Balkan version of America’s more famous Area 51.
As fact, rumor and fiction intertwine, the final decades of Yugoslav history are laid out in a way that dares the audience to take a highly critical view of what they see and hear on the big screen.
Myth or reality? It’s up to you to decide.