Monday, June 18, 2012

A documentary that fails to mention it's a hoax?

Alien from Area 51: The Alien Autopsy Footage Revealed
Starring: Ray Santilli and Gary Shoefield
Director: Philip Gardiner
Stars: One of Ten Stars

In 1994, Fox got huge ratings with "Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction", a Jonathan Frakes-hosted documentary that purported to show genuine footage of an autopsy performed in late the 1940s, supposedly on the corpse of an alien that crashed his/her/its ship in Rosewell, New Mexico.

In 2006, the men who once claimed to have purchased the alien autopsy footage from a retired U.S. Air Force cameraman, Ray Santilli and Gary Shoefield, admitted that the footage was hoaxed as part of the promotional efforts surrounding a fictional comedy based on his efforts to market the material. He named names of other hoaxers involved, explained processes, and claimed that the original footage HAD at one time existed but had been degraded so he was forced to "recreate it" with a phony alien body and phony doctors in a phony laboratory.

Now, in 2012, along comes "Alien From Area 51", a documentary that promises to reveal information about government cover-ups and the Santilli/Shoefield film. Directed by Philip Gardiner (who was also two films I've recently reviewed over at Terror Titans, and both of which narrowly avoided being reviewed here) this is a film that will benefit viewers who were too young to have seen the alien autopsy footage Back In The Day and those who don't want reality to creep into their conspiracy theories about world governments covering up alien visitations and alien invasions. Because this is a "documentary" from the Michael Moore School of Documentary filmmaking, in that it offers one-sided views of the topics it covers, offers assertions rather than facts, and recreates reality to fit the narrative the filmmaker wishes to present.

"Alien from Area 51" seeks to reset the clock to 1994 by letting Santelli and Shoefield spin a tale about the history of alien autopsy footage that completely disregards the 2006 revelations and even parts of the original narrative about the pair supposedly came by the material. In the interview with the producers here, the footage is no longer a "recreation" using a prop body and actors in an apartment, but a pain-stakingly detailed restoration of salvageable parts of the decaying original that had been made by taking still shots of the individual frames and reassembling them into the movie that was the basis for the Fox program.

That, along with Santelli and Shoefield's ideas about whether aliens exist and questionable anecdotes of visits from Chinese government officials to their London offices, make up the bulk of the film. It opens with a basic primer on the Roswell, New Mexico, UFO crash story (augmented with manipulated outtakes from "The Dark Watchers"), and it closes with Santelli and Shoefield's supposed find in its restored glory. There are no counter viewpoints here, nor is there any explanation for why the narrative here doesn't match Santelli's 2006 account.

I'm not entirely sure what Gardiner was trying to accomplish with this film, nor am I sure that anyone should bother watching it other than the hardest of the hardcore UFO enthusiasts.... and then only so they can know the latest "truth" about the supposed alien autopsy footage. It would have made a fantastic bonus feature on the DVD of Gardiner's "The Dark Watchers" (which contains many of the themes touched on in this film) as the two films would have complemented each other, but as a stand-alone product it is not worth most people's time or money.

Rent the film online, or order it on DVD.

(Full disclosure: This review was based on a distributor-provided screener copy that most likely did not completely reflect the final edit of the film. For example, the version I watched had an obvious opening titles sequence but the text had not been placed.)

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