Oct 5, 2020

The Phenomenon

NOTE:  If you want to purchase The Phenomenon with all the bonus features, you must get it directly from Vimeo.  I have absolutely no financial stake/interest in this film.  release date is Oct. 6th, 2020.

Special thanks to filmmaker and director James Fox and 1091 Media for allowing me access to a review copy.

UFO documentaries can be a hard sell or a let down for many reasons.  Most are simple rehashes and that often cannot be helped due to the nature of the subject's history.  Some are money grabs, reselling old tales that have been dusted off.

Others are simply awful or used as a publicity vehicle in which certain UFO personalities shamelessly promote themselves at the expense of the topic.  Some are based on obvious hoaxes or so cliché they're just embarrassing, or make the mistake of featuring the usual talking heads from the UFO convention circuit.  All in all, very few UFO documentaries live up to any of the hype and/or deliver the promised goods...if anything good at all.

The last few years have brought us two of the more well known films about UFOs, both made by Jeremy Kenyon Lockyer Corbell.  The first was Hunt for the Skinwalker, based on the book by George Knapp and Dr. Colm Kelleher.  A lot promises were made about this film, which ultimately didn't deliver and was an enormous let down.  My personal opinion is that you can read the book and simply skip the film.  You can also spare yourself the film's horrible audio and music.

The other film was Bob Lazar: Area 51 & Flying Saucers.  Narrated by actor Mickey Rourke, his gravel voice and muttering made it pretty much unwatchable, this film was a rehash of the Lazar story culminating with the low-grade theatrical implication that Lazar smuggled a chunk of Element 115 out of Area 51.

These sort of sensationalistic films (and there are many), full of promise and hype while short on actual delivery,  do a great disservice to the UFO subject.

Good UFO documentaries are simply a rare breed.  Enter The Phenomenon, the latest film by James Fox (pictured left) with a trailer that has received millions of views online.

I earlier said that a lot of films seem to rehash the history of the UFO subject, which annoys me but I understand the necessity for wider audiences (aka the layperson).

However, the beginning turns out to rather nicely compliment the end as future meets past in this film.  And the end of the film rolling into credits?  The film makes good use of the end with in-credit footage so you don't lose the entire time to just the credits.  Don't skip the credits.

The history of the UFO subject is not just a simple, linear narrative as we've seen in books and films.  The Phenomenon delves into that history with hidden gems and surprises, such as the testimony of retired Air Force Colonel William Coleman (pictured right) and his account of encountering a huge disc shaped craft while flying a B-25 bomber on a sunny day in 1955.  Pay close attention to this segment and what Coleman's future role in the Air Force would be, one of a few real twists in this film.

What history of UFOs would be complete without the story of Kenneth Arnold?  Think you really know that story?  Probably not and The Phenomenon does an amazing job and thankfully avoids giving us the usual bland vanilla treatment of the event with a few items you likely aren't expecting.

The Trent UFO photos are discussed briefly with Evelyn Trent describing what happened that day when she and her husband saw and photographed a UFO near their farm.

I personally interviewed Paul and Evelyn Trent in the 90s prior The Trents passing away.

In all the years following their story, The Trents never waivered in the account.  They both told me the same thing, but most don't realize the harassment and ridicule their family, including their children, were subjected to throughout their lives.

Watching some of the witnesses from the 1966 Westfall High School UFO case recount their experiences in this film was credible and convincing.  This is a landing event witnessed by hundreds of school students and staff, all reportedly told by Australian military and police to never speak of the incident or there'd be trouble.  This admonishment was reinforced by the head-master of the school.

A science teacher from that school told filmmaker James Fox about what he saw during that incident.  This is the first time the science teacher has ever spoken about it, and he still wished to remain anonymous in the film 50+ years after the event.

The film continues to delve into some of the more historic or well known cases, Hynek, Condon, Project Bluebook and reminds us not only is the UFO phenomenon happening in the United States, but worldwide.  The witnesses from all walks of life.  The phenomenon not one of just a civilian variety, but showing that the military is not immune from UFOs.

Now we move into some of the accounts of military witnesses and particularly the encounters at nuclear weapons facilities.  The accounts are compelling, the witnesses credible, the reported incursions of these highly secure facilities frightening.

Astronaut and fighter pilot Gordon Cooper appears via archival footage sharing his UFO experiences when he was in the military.

The part I'm highly interested in is where Dr. Jacques Vallee and Dr. Garry Nolan sit in a lab and discuss pieces of alleged UFO metal debris with abnormal isotopic ratios.

Vallee (pictured right with alleged UFO material from cases) drops this bombshell, but I'll only give you a small part of it so you can hear it all for yourself, "This material was manufactured.  It's not natural, it's not natural to the materials that we have around us in the lab or on the Earth."

Just wait until you hear what Vallee continues saying - it is simply an astonishing statement.

What I'd love to see of all documentaries now is an online index to the film with links to references where more information is available for viewing and verification.  This claim by Vallee and Nolan is unbelievably extraordinary if true.

The history of UFOs could not be told without mentioning the discovery of the ATTIP program, the USS Nimitz UFO encounters,  those three military videos, and The New York times story from 2017.

While The Phenomenon did not address the claims of alien abduction, the film did cover a chapter called Contact featuring the 1994 Ariel School UFO landing, a case I feel is one of the most compelling.

The testimony from the children shown is gripping, especially when a young boy points to the cheeks on his face to describe this as the place where the eyes of a being he saw were located on its face in relation to his own head (photo below).  Take a minute and really think about that description.

James Fox was able to get some of the witnesses to this event on camera decades after it took place and the testimony comes off as just as sincere and compelling all these years later.  Even the head-mistress of the Ariel School reveals to Fox, for the first time ever, a secret she kept for decades about the event.

The Phenomenon asks the question, by accident or design, why do UFO witnesses come forward?  Even with the positive media coverage the UFO topic has enjoyed the last few years, we're still seeing people hidden in shadow and remaining anonymous out of fear of ridicule, some expressing the fear of losing their job if they go public.

The film is careful in what it includes and avoids alien abductions, crop circles, Art's Parts, Bob Lazar, MJ-12, Skinwalker Ranch and other more controversial and nonsensical areas associated with the UFO subject.  I was not a fan seeing Roswell featured in the film, but I suppose you cannot cover UFO history without touching on Roswell, whether you believe it or not.

Some will likely jump on this claiming the omission of these topics is evidence of Fox selectively avoiding them.  With the 140 minute running time, I'm sure Fox had to be very selective in what he was able to present in his film.

As much as the film is a documentary, it's an invitation to take a serious look at the subject of UFOs without the ridicule that seems to greet those who step into the subject to see what's going on.

The Phenomenon has a cinematic quality and feel to it that leaves me remiss not being able to view it in a theater because of the current Coronavirus pandemic.

Peter Coyote's pacing and measured oration as narrator is spot on.  The film's score helps carry the serious tone of the film without being over sensational or too dramatic, something that many other UFO documentaries suffer.

The writing of Fox and Marc Barasch is intricate, slick and at no point boring or dull.  The script is clearly a carefully crafted work.

The Phenomenon does not make you believe in UFOs, it leaves you convinced the subject deserves serious consideration.  Simply, this is the best UFO documentary I've seen considering all of the ground it covered in 140 minutes.

This film will set the standard higher for any UFO related television show or documentary film.  If you want a UFO film made, your first call should be to James Fox.

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