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The Phenomenon

The Phenomenon

By Jonahh Oestreich • October 11th, 2020
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
THE PHENOMENON (2020)
1091 Pictures, James Fox Productions,
Farah Films

Original release: October 6, 2020
Running time: 100 minutes approx.

Director: James Fox
Narrator: Peter Coyote

Website: thephenomenonfilm.com
The Phenomenon (2020)

“We find ourselves confronted with something
that challenges our very understanding of reality.
We may be sharing this fragile blue-green oasis
with an unknown Other, one with a mysterious
relationship to humanity and its own
interest in our world.” — The Phenomenon

UFOs (unidentified flying objects) are real. At least the US military has — officially — admitted as much or be it recently. And UFOs are not a modern phenomenon, even if the “flying saucer” craze since the late 1940s might suggest otherwise.

Judging by prehistoric cave paintings, historical records and works of art, strange things have been observed in Earth’s skies since the dawn of time. Simultaneously, watchful elites have dominated and orchestrated the perception of those phenomena. Religions, governments and scientists were prepared to push any explanation, as long as it did not include anything out of this world. If necessary, they resorted to outright ridicule and denial.

In the last few years though, a lot has happened, from startling revelations, increasing coverage in the mainstream media and renewed scientific interest to the official establishment of a Pentagon task force in August 2020 that is supposed to investigate phenomena manifesting in our skies.

It seems there’s hope for people who want to know rather than believe, who are less interested in vindication but in understanding the phenomenon as it’s relevant to the future of humanity. Films like The Phenomenon are a part of that hope.

So, it seems only logical that the documentary ends with a call to action: “Please contact your government representative and demand full transparency.” This makes UFOs a political issue, a matter for activists and elected officials. Leaving the realm of mere belief, it’s a coming-of-age process long overdue and in a way, the film can be seen as a manifesto that will help the topic of “unidentified aerial phenomena” overcome the crackpot stigma it has been plagued with for ages.

Recounting close to 30 UFO incidents spanning the globe and almost six decades, director James Fox focuses on facts, official documents and first-hand witnesses. The famous Roswell crash of 1947 is part of the story — for many the mother of all UFO stories, even if still controversial. Arguably, it also marks the beginning of the cover-up, seemingly undertaken by intelligence agencies and governments.

The Phenomenon (2020)Other remarkable cases include the 1966 Westall (Australia) and the 1994 Ruwa (Zimbabwe) incidents, both involving dozens of school children. The 2004 encounters surrounding the USS Nimitz carrier strike group are particularly interesting, as there are videos documenting the events — videos the US Navy meanwhile officially acknowledged as legitimate, along with the admission they show unknown aircraft that display flight characteristics not possible within the framework of our current understanding of physics.

Director James Fox is not a newcomer to the UFO field. With his previous documentaries Out of The Blue and I Know What I Saw, he’s proven to be a thorough and serious researcher, and a filmmaker who avoids sensationalism for the sake of credibility. That’s probably why there’s no mention of alien abductions, cattle mutilations and other phenomena that are usually discussed in UFO documentaries. Regular UFO folks might miss a few cases they consider part of the canon but given The Phenomenon wants to make an airtight case, it also sidesteps more controversial aspects.

Ultimately, the film is a seminal update to the conversation, not least as it includes current developments as well as new statements by high-ranking government officials such as former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Christopher Mellon, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Intelligence. Along with former astronauts and other political celebrities, it’s also the professional level of interviewees that makes The Phenomenon one of the most compelling UFO documentaries to date.

While seasoned UFO followers might not find a lot of new information in the film, people who are just becoming interested in the subject are presented with a wealth of facts, documents and witness accounts that make a more than convincing case for a topic that has so far been dismissed by most as fantasy or science fiction.

With a few cases, James Fox makes the phenomenon palpable even for people who are still on the fence about UFOs. When those objects interfere with nuclear missiles, initiating launch sequences or shutting them down, it’s undoubtedly about more than just “lights in the sky”. At the same time, the incidents are not reported by the average Joe, but trained military observers who, more or less literally, stand between us and Armageddon.

This also highlights the human factor of the phenomenon. Unlike most UFO documentaries, James Fox manages to tell the stories of the people involved in a down-to-earth but touching way. When the children who witnessed the UFO and its inhabitants in Zimbabwe talk about what they saw, the haunted look in their eyes should leave a visceral impression on anyone. Seeing and listening to the children as grown-ups now, some 25 years later, reinforces the scope of their experiences, and makes them even more credible.

While the documentary does an excellent job at introducing people to the topic and documenting the phenomenon as well as the secrecy surrounding it, the film doesn’t talk much about the growing scientific interest in the subject. The Phenomenon (2020)The exception being Jacques Vallee, a renowned UFO researcher and inspiration for the character of French scientist Claude Lacombe in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. He presents material samples from UFO cases he collected over the decades. These samples are potentially a “smoking gun” for UFO research, and seeing how protective of the samples Vallee is — and how anxious not to jump to any conclusions — it becomes clear that, as Senator Reid put it, “most of [the evidence] hasn’t seen the light of day.”

What I personally missed was the recent work of political scientists such as Professor Alexander Wendt. Including them would have strengthened the case The Phenomenon is making, as their research not only shows how UFOs slowly find their way into mainstream science; it also helps explain the secrecy surrounding the subject and maybe what “they” might be all about.

It could also have helped bust the popular myth that people are not ready for “disclosure”, as it looks more like the ruling elites are not ready. This goes to the core of the secrecy: Acknowledging the phenomenon and disclosing what they know would threaten their sovereignty on a fundamental level — and with it both the political and religious status quo. This is about far more than mere explanations, but that’s where it starts. Interspersed with the end credits, The Phenomenon features a short statement by Brazilian Air Force general Pereira, that “governments tend to cover up everything they can’t explain to their population.”

Seeing the other bits James Fox inserted into the end credits, I think it’s safe to assume that a lot of material he’s collected over the years landed on the cutting room floor. Compelling Chinese and Brazilian incidents, for instance, didn’t make it into the film it seems. Despite exploring international cases, The Phenomenon is still very much focused on the United States, probably also because of the lack of government-level voices elsewhere.

Nevertheless, the film is a must-watch, especially for audiences new to the topic. It presents extraordinary evidence for the existence of a phenomenon that may have been around forever, perhaps with implications yet inconceivable to us. Visually compelling and with a top-notch narration by actor Peter Coyote, The Phenomenon should convince the wider public that UFOs are not a matter of belief anymore.

Jonahh Oestreich

Jonahh Oestreich

One of the Editors in Chief and our webmaster, Jonahh has been working in the media industry for over 20 years, mainly in television, design and art. As a boy, he made his first short film with an 8mm camera and the help of his father. His obsession with (moving) images and stories hasn’t faded since.

You can follow Jonahh on Twitter @Jonahh_O.

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