I was hoping that Daniel J. Clark’s documentary Behind the Curve was a reference to baseball. Instead, it’s a deep dive into the Flat Earth Theory and those that believe said theory. After the avalanche of criticism that came from Film Threat critic Bradley Gibson’s review of American Circumcision, I’m going to take a more diplomatic approach to the crazy idea of a flat earth.
Full disclosure, Film Threat does not have a reviewer that subscribes to the Flat Earth Theory. Since I am the only reviewer, who believes in the “Guy in the Sky,” Behind the Curve was given to me. Let me first start by saying, Behind the Curve is the perfect introduction to one of the craziest world-wide phenomenon today, and if you’re not paying attention, you might fall into its trap. That said, this documentary is by no means an evangelist piece, but a doc of objectivity.
With thousands of members and a few leaders, director Clark focuses on two people. The first is Mark Sargent, founder of the Flat Earth International Conference (FEIC). He became famous as a YouTuber with videos titled “Flat Earth Clues,” and now he has a worldwide following. The other is Patricia Steere, host of another YouTube show called Flat Earth & Other Hot Potatoes where she discusses the latest in Flat Earth news and conversation.
Behind the Curve presents Sargent and Steere as sane, rational people and along with seemingly sane, rational people outline the theory of why the earth is flat and how does the sun, moon, stars, and government cover-ups make it all work. You will understand the argument by the end, on occasion though their theories are challenged/debunked by more mainstream scientists.
“…outline the theory of why the earth is flat and how does the sun, moon, stars, and government cover-ups make it all work.”
Speaking of mainstream scientists, it’s interesting to observe just how smug and dismissive these experts are. I get it, they’re right. But damn, they’re basically saying, “we’re right, and you’re an idiot.” A clip from Neil deGrasse Tyson, or as they call him The-One-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, makes him come across as a smart-ass bully. Then I think, “he is right.”
While Sargent and Steere are the backbones of the film’s narrative, Clark does make some essential tangents like how the Flat Earther movement gained steam and has grown significantly over the past several years almost to the point of becoming a religion. The movement even has celebrity followers most famously NBA star Kyrie Irving and Shaquille O’Neal.
What about science? You know, real science. Clark has done his due diligence in interviewing Flat Earth scientists whose focus is to challenge current belief’s in the Earth’s so-called roundness. In fact, the ending of the doc follows a sort of scientific task force formed at the FEIC and their experiment to debunk the curvature of the earth. No spoilers here.
What about the human element? It’s not easy being a Flat Earther. If you think politics divides us, apparently so does science. Clarks goes through testimony after testimony of believers who have been cut off from their families. Imagine what Thanksgiving must be like. “Don’t give Tommy the curved knife. He doesn’t believe in it.” Then there are others holding divorce papers with the ink still wet. The social stigma is so bad, there’s a Flat Earth dating site online.
This sounds like a conspiracy theory. Here is where the can of worms literally opens and those worms wriggle everywhere. What is the government hiding? How did NASA fake space travel and feed us a series of lies? Then the conspiracy turns inward when the movements true founder Math Powerland accuses Sargent and Steere of being government operatives.
“The best word to describe Behind the Curve is empathetic…”
What I found most fascinating was how the Flat Earth movement shines a light on how belief/faith have divided us as a people. We are a split world hiding behind our labels, be it religion Christian, Jew, Muslim, Atheist. What about politics? Democrat, Republican. The film challenges us to think about how we treat people who don’t believe as we do, especially when we’re right. What do you do with an old friend or family member, who comes out as a flat-earther? Do you mock them? Take away their driver’s license? Fire them from their jobs? Dismiss them because they’re “defective”?
I am not a Flat Earther, period. I’m safe because I’m a happy member of the majority. But once it gets out that I’m a Christian, now what? Want to know who I voted for? What do I really believe? What are my feelings about Trump, #MeToo, Climate Change, etc.? Is it ever possible to bring civility back to the conversation? Or better yet, bring back the conversation altogether.
The best word to describe the way Clark shot Behind the Curve is empathetic. While I believe with my whole heart that they’re wrong about many things on many levels. But they still have the right to be heard, and I owe them the respect to listen to what they have to say. In the end, don’t be afraid to sip a little bit of the Kool-Aid.
Behind the Curve (2018) Directed by Daniel J. Clark. Featuring Mark Sargent, Patricia Steere.
8 out of 10 stars