Tag Archives: conspiracy theories

Mirage Men

Mirage Men

Format: Cinema

Screening date: 13 June 2013 (world premiere at Sheffield Doc/Fest)

Director: John Lundberg, Roland Denning, Kypros Kyprianou

Writer: Mark Pilkington

UK 2013

85 mins

Mirage Men Website

Full disclosure before diving into this story of bluffs and double bluffs: Mark Pilkington is a friend of, and contributor to, Electric Sheep, as well as the publisher of our book. However, I don’t believe that friendship impairs critical faculties and this is as fair a review as any.

Think you know the truth about UFOs? Or the difference between truth and myth? Well, think again. In Mirage Men, the truth is not so much out there as a question of ‘perception management’, as one of the former special agents interviewed in this fascinating documentary puts it.

Directed by John Lundberg, Roland Denning and Kypros Kyprianou as a companion piece to Mark Pilkington’s book of the same title (who also co-produced the film), Mirage Men upends the usual conspiracy theories to show that, far from covering up the truth about the existence of extra-terrestrial UFOs, the American government has in fact actively manipulated beliefs about them to create a myth that would serve its counterintelligence objectives.

Talking to a colourful gallery of characters that includes two shady former special agents, UFO obsessives, a passionate investigative journalist, a CIA analyst, an aviation historian and a parapsychologist among others, the filmmakers allow them to air conflicting views, letting the audience make up their own mind about what to believe. Indeed, Mirage Men is less interested in resolving the UFOs question than in exploring ‘how we know what we know’, a much more complex and fundamental issue.

The tangled web of deception and self-deception that the film uncovers is dizzying. At its centre is former special agent Richard Doty, an unassuming man who looks more like an accountant than a spy, and yet has functioned as a ruthlessly efficient manipulator for years. With disarming apparent openness, he explains how he planted the seeds of the UFO myth in the mind of the tragic pilot Paul Bennewitz and other ‘useful idiots’, and yet declares later that he was shown classified documents that proved the existence of alien UFOs. As the former special agent puts it after a similar disclosure, ‘Now could this be part of disinformation? Absolutely.’ With such vertiginous manipulation of the facts, the American government has managed to muddy the waters irreversibly, and in so doing, forever sink in its dark currents potentially embarrassing revelations about exactly what caused unexplained phenomena such as the cattle mutilations, as the film shows.

A very cinematic documentary, Mirage Men unravels these myths and machinations through stunning images of the New Mexico desert juxtaposed with old film clips and infinite institutional corridors that evoke the endless ramifications of the story, or the neural paths of the brain that distinguish between fact and fiction. The subtle, haunting, eerie score by Cyclobe and Urthona evocatively supports the never-sensational, well-paced, soberly presented story. An intelligent and captivating exploration of how truth is created, Mirage Men is undoubtedly one of the must-see documentaries of the year.

Virginie Sélavy

Watch the trailer:

Room 237

Room 237 (The Shining)

Format: Cinema

Dates: 26 October 2012

Venues: Key cities

Distributor: Metrodome

Director: Rodney Archer

USA 2012

102 mins

Subtitled ‘Being an inquiry into The Shining in 9 parts’, Rodney Ascher’s diverting documentary features a group of obsessives ranging from eccentric to out-and-out whacky expounding upon their theories about the Stanley Kubrick film in voice-over. Those are illustrated by an artfully assembled montage of graphics and manipulated clips from the film, together with well-chosen odds and sods from Western cinema in general and Kubrick’s oeuvre in particular, in a manner reminiscent of Adam Curtis’s work. Ascher does his damnedest to make it visually and aurally interesting, and lets his chosen voices speak without judgement.

Most of the speakers were disappointed by their first encounter with the film, but went back to it on VHS, on DVD, on Blu-ray, watching it over and over, convinced that a cinematic master with an IQ of 200 couldn’t just produce an overly mannered misfire, no, there had to be more to it than that. They started to map the geography of the Overlook hotel, read the posters, props and set decoration for clues, and assume that continuity errors must be there for a reason. The result suggests that what The Shining was really about was, well, take your pick: the Holocaust, Greek myth, American ‘Manifest Destiny’ and the genocide of the native population, and, my personal favourite, Kubrick apologising for his part in the faking of the moon landings by Apollo 11. This is Great Movie Mistakes as seen by people who don’t believe in mistake, chance or coincidence, and how much you enjoy it is going to be dependent upon how long you’re prepared to indulge their company – 102 minutes is a stretch.

But it says something about the reputation of the man and his cinema that this film, and doubtless hours more like it could be made. I can happily believe that he read the book Subliminal Seduction about hidden messages in advertising and interviewed Madison Avenue executives about how they worked. Maybe some of the weirdness in The Shining was the result. Who knows? But in his massively extensive research and attention to detail, the Kubrick of legend was just as obsessive as any of the contributors to this film. If, y’know, slightly more hinged.

As one of the unseen says at one point, ‘Kubrick is thinking about the implications of everything that exists!’

Mark Stafford