Many longtime residents of New Mexico are well versed in UFO lore. In the southern part of the state there was the Roswell Incident in 1947, and here in the northern part of the state there were numerous cases of mysterious animal mutilations attributed to UFOs, mostly in the 1990s (though some say they’re still happening). Of course, there are also the rumors of a secret alien base somewhere underground near Dulce, N.M.
To this day, many Taoseños say they have seen strange lights in the sky over the nearby mountains.
All of these things generally get chalked up to late night conjecture, but recently they’ve been given new life. Just this past June, President Donald Trump was asked about it by his eldest son in a Father’s Day themed TV interview. Don Trump, Jr. asked his dad if if he would ever divulge information about the Roswell Incident.
“I won’t talk to you about what I know about it, but it’s very interesting,” his father replied, suggesting that he’ll “have to think about” disclosing what he knows. Whether any of that means anything or if Trump was giving one of his legendary bazingas, we may never know given the outcome of the recent election. But, a lot more credibility was certainly sought by director James Fox for his just-released documentary, “The Phenomenon.”
Fox’s film takes a sober look at the history of government reactions to UFO sightings since they became part of popular culture about 70 years ago. When I say “government reactions,” in the film that pretty much becomes synonymous with “cover-up.”
Using high quality production values that include some digitally animated sequences to recreate real-life incidents, Fox peppers the discourse with interviews from high level government officials such as former Sen. Harry Reid, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, and former deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Intelligence Christopher Mellon. Also featured is Leslie Kean, co-author of a number of the New York Times’ articles about the Pentagon’s secret UFO program, and Jacques Vallée, a former astronomer and computer scientist who was the inspiration for Francois Truffaut’s character in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
Most striking about the film is not the assertion that one has to believe in UFOs. Rather, it focuses on tangible things seen by credible witnesses. These included experienced military and civilian pilots, astronauts, teachers, and ordinary citizens with no interest in attracting publicity. Beginning with a history of modern day sightings, Fox and his crew explain how this phenomenon is continuing and that the U.S. government has agencies that are holding information so secret that even presidents are unable to gain access, as attested by President Bill Clinton in an archived interview. Chillingly, many sightings have taken place at or near installations containing nuclear arms.
Recently, the New York Times published stories that revealed videos taken by military pilots depicting real UFOs. And, while the stories were groundbreaking in showing how a seriously they were being taken by government officials, former deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Intelligence Mellon says they missed a startling opportunity. He says in the film, the Times "had a chance to show how these things are real, they’re here and there is evidence, but they blew it.”
The concept of “full disclosure” about UFOs and aliens is the holy grail for people who study and follow this subject, meaning one day the government will finally come clean about what it knows. Their hope is that eventually this will be hauled out of the realm of science fiction and into the cold light of fact.
This film certainly makes the case that something, something real, is out there.
“The Phenomenon” is not rated, although there is some mild language. It is available for rental on Amazon, Vudu and other online services.
Taos News grade: B.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres in Taos and the Taos Community Auditorium remain closed for the time being in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Until they reopen, we will focus on movies available online.