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The Phenomenon UFO Documentary

“The Phenomenon”: James Fox’s New UFO Documentary (Trailer)

Every time I stumble upon UFO-related content –be that a new book, TV show or documentary– one of the first questions that crosses my mind is *who* its intended audience is supposed to be. Because if the sole purpose of the new material is to present evidence corroborating the reality of the UFO phenomenon, but your intended audience is the UFO community alone, then you’re merely preaching to the choir; if on the other hand your intention is to convince skeptics or the undecided, then just supporting your arguments with credible witnesses’ testimonies, shaky home videos and CGI recreations is probably not going to be enough –it didn’t work 20 years ago, so it’s unlikely to work today.

These are the things I was thinking of yesterday, when I sat to rewatch James Fox’s old documentary UFOs: Out of the Blue (freely available on Youtube) which was well received by UFO enthusiasts when it came out in 2003 for putting together a broad “UFOlogy 101” anthology, clearly in the typical ETH camp, which included first-hand interviews about some of the most compelling cases in recent history, like Rendlesham and the Phoenix lights –unfortunately a few notoriously fake videos were also included in the mix (e.g. Billy Meier’s ‘beamships’ or the August 1997 video from Mexico). Back in those days of the early 2000’s Fox was a regular feature in the UFO roundtables organized by Larry King, where he would often butt heads with Bill Nye. Out of the Blue was followed by I know What I Saw in 2009 which also followed a similar formula of interviewing witnesses and making a case for the “big coverup” maintained by the US government on the subject.

Then in 2012 James became one of the stars in National Geographic’s Chasing UFOs, which was so poorly received (even among UFO buffs) for its sensationalistic tone and tiring use of reality TV gimmicks –i.e. running around in the middle of the night with IR cameras shouting “OMG what was that?!”— it only lasted one season. 

After that, Fox kind of disappeared from the public UFO radar. In 2013 it was announced that James was associating himself with Tracy Torme –screenwriter for Fire in the Sky, who was also involved in the infamous TV show UFO Coverup? Live!— on a new documentary tentatively called “701,” as an allusion to the number of UFO reports on the Blue Book’s files which remained unsolved. Sporadic updates about the project kept popping here and there on UFO forums and podcasts, but in all appearances it seems the project remained in pre-production limbo for many years.

October 2013, West Hollywood – From left to right: Producer Tony Cataldo, Loren Coleman, Tracy Torme and James Fox (Photo courtesy of Loren Coleman)

Finally, last Wednesday James released the trailer for the long-awaited documentary, which has now been renamed as “The Phenomenon”

“THE PHENOMENON” is the first high-production-value documentary to assemble the pieces of the UFO puzzle into a startling, up-to-the-minute picture, peering into 70 years of history right up to fresh discoveries that challenge everything we think we know.

It opens by proving there is a shocking “hidden history” that began in the late Forties and Fifties, when fleets of UFOs appeared in the skies over nearly every state in the U.S.,  culminating in a flyover of Washington D.C. It uses never-before-seen archival footage and beautifully shot new interviews, deploying high-calibre journalism and edge-of-your-seat storytelling to take audiences on a  revelatory journey that leads them to an unsettling, unavoidable conclusion: “We are not alone.”

Featuring eyewitnesses, experts and officials include “60 Minutes”-level interviews with former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who arranged secret government funding of UFO study programs; John Podesta, White House Chief of Staff for Clinton and advisor to Obama,  who tried to lift the veil from inside the corridors of power; former U.S. Energy Secretary and New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, who believes in the likelihood that an alien spaceship did crash in Roswell; Chris Mellon, FMR Deputy Sec. Defense for Intelligence, Jacques Vallee, the most famous living UFO researcher, an Advisor to Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” who worked closely with famed Project Bluebook astronomer J. Allen Hynek; and many more.

I gotta be honest with you: I am not looking forward to this documentary. Right now it feels like a rehash of Out of the Blue –this new film will also be narrated by Peter Coyote, just like the old one– with prettier CGI recreations, yet following the same strategy of alluding to the “big coverup” by the big, bad government, with the inclusion of the Nimitz UFO encounters and the interviews of David Fravor, former Senator Harry Reid, and TTSA’s Chris Mellon, just to make the material more contemporary. The title choice and the inclusion of the Ariel case gives me some hope that Fox has moved away from the stereotypical ETH model, yet the insistence of including Roswell doesn’t make me raise my hopes too high…

Granted, the public perception on UFOs has shifted in the last couple of days, thanks to the revelation of the Pentagon’s AATIP program –something we’ve covered multiple times— but the public has already heard Fravor’s testimony, and we’ve long known John Podesta is on board with ‘Disclosure’. Learning what happened in the past is surely important –especially for the younger members of the community– but do we really need a new remedial class of “UFOlogy 101”? After 20 years, isn’t it time to move forward?

You know what would be refreshing in a UFO documentary? Exploring the possibility that the main reason for the “cover-up,” is because the powers that be don’t have a clue of what’s really going on.

  1. Actually what would be truly refreshing would be what’s really going on at the myriad underground military bases in this country which are taxpayer funded, and the alien reproduction vehicles, and God knows what else in those places. So perhaps a large degree of “Perception broadening” is in order on your part.
    Just a thought, just a thought..

  2. Red:
    The information says that this is a national release in theatres across the country.
    Those of us who study the subject are certainly familiar with the material.
    Would it be a good thing to inform those less knowledgeable about the phenomena?

    1. I would assume the “less knowledgeable” are still capable of using Youtube (like I said, Out of the Blue is freely available)

      Look, I am really hope I’m proven wrong here, and that The Phenomenon is not just an updated version of Fox’s previous films. I really hope they focus more on the Ariel case than freaking Roswell. I know Vallee was interviewed so maaaybe they will explore other ideas aside from the ETH. I guess we’ll have to wait to find out.

  3. A documentary focusing on the actual phenomenon (and all its absurdities) would be much more interesting than the constant push to validate the nuts and bolts ‘space alien’ theory. If you do remotely serious research into this phenomenon (by actually diving beneath the surface level of it) it’s immediately apparent there is far more to it all than space ships. Vallee’s research into the phenomenon is absolutely fantastic, and one of the few bits that’s open minded. It’s far closer to the elusive truth, than ‘greys from Zeta Reticuli’.
    An enthralling documentary would be if a filmmaker (who had actually done their homework and moved past the whole UFOology space alien thing) sat down and filmed a conversation with Vallee regarding the phenomenon. That would probably have to be a series though, since there’s so much to cover.

  4. What would TRULY be refreshing instead of just rehashing the old cases for a new generation Fox covered in depth how many of them were thoroughly debunked years ago and now should be ignored. Then those new to Ufology won’t waste time and energy on ancient UFO fairy tales.

    it would also be truly refreshing to cover how the intelligence community has created and promoted UFO myths since the 1950s in order to cover up and further purely terrestrial agendas (e.g., the CIA’s highly classified U2 flights were often mistaken for UFOS by pilots due to their altitude and speed). And only Project Beta and Mirage Men have covered AFOSI’s manipulation of Paul Bennewitz’ UFO beliefs to cover up military R&D at Kirtland AFB. That’s a case that needs to reported widely and often to the UFO community. I bet that’s missing from Fox’s new documentary.

    But this is how Fox makes a living so he’s going to deliver whatever goods his target market wants to buy, even if the film contains nothing new nor substantively true.

    Such is the world of UFO believers. They’re like 10 year-olds at Disneyworld. They believe it’s all true even when they can spot the machinery behind the illusion. Fox is just delivering to them a new fantasy ride because that’s what they want.

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