Fly Rocket Fly

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Germany | 2018 | 90 minutes | Oliver Schwehm

In 1975, decades before SpaceX, an impulsive German aerospace engineer founded the world's first private space travel company, OTRAG, and built an astonishing rocket testing compound in the jungles of Zaire that triggered an international political firestorm.

The astoundingly Herculean, and ultimately foolhardy, enterprise of German rocket scientist Lutz Kayser to build the first private aerospace company in 1975, decades before Elon Musk's dreams of SpaceX, is a tale with more twists and turns than a Hollywood thriller. Working with a band of hardworking and talented engineers, Kayser created OTRAG, short for Orbital Transport and Rocket Corporation, despite the fact that the 1954 Treaty of Brussels had prohibited the development and launching of missiles on German soil. Undeterred, he made a controversial deal with General Mobutu Sese Seko, the military dictator of Zaire (today the Democratic Republic of Congo), to lease 39,000 square miles—an area one-tenth the size of the entire country—in order to build a private Cape Canaveral in the heart of the Congolese jungle. But with the Cold War in full effect, fears about the project began to spread, political pressure mounted, an international incident was narrowly avoided, and a tragic accident led to the death of several crewmembers, bringing OTRAG's unlikely adventure to an end. As told by many of the original employees of OTRAG as well as Kayser himself, and featuring a plethora of archival footage from every stage of the project, Fly Rocket Fly separates myth from fact to tell the story of this remarkable undertaking.

Clinton McClung

Director Biography
Born in Mainz Germany in 1975, Oliver Schwehm splits his time between his films and working as a commissioning editor for the German-French TV channel, Arte. He studied literature and philosophy before obtaining a master degree in documentary filmmaking. Fly Rocket Fly is his feature-length documentary debut.

Sponsored by 425 Magazine, Aegis Living, AlphaGraphics, Center for West European Studies at UW, The Walls Vineyards 

  • Director: Oliver Schwehm
  • Principal Cast: Lutz Kayser, Frank Wuksch, Victor Lobermann, James Oberg, Francois Heisbourg
  • Premiere Status: North American Premiere
  • Country: Germany, Belgium
  • Year: 2018
  • Running Time: 90 minutes
  • Producer: Markus Hilss
  • Screenplay: Oliver Schwehm
  • Cinematographers: Hermann Sowieja
  • Editors: Helmar Jungmann
  • Music: Heiko Maile
  • Website: Official Film Website
  • Filmography: Debut Feature Film
  • Language: German, English, French
  • Has Subtitles: Yes
  • Format: DCP
  • International Sales: Magnetfilm GmbH