Allegedly, in 1947, some kind of alien spacecraft (or whatever) crashed in the nowhere desert town of Roswell, New Mexico. Today, thousands (possibly millions) of stone lunatics think that extraterrestrial creatures were in that wreckage. Many theories abound. Some say they were killed and the U.S. government ground them into hamburger, or–more reasonably–that they disappeared into society and are now handling programming for the three major television networks.
On July 1, 1997: fifty years after from this so-called event, Director Timothy B. Johnson and UFO nut Rich Kronfeld made the scene in Roswell to interview a few of the talkative folks who believe in this kind of crap. Luckily, Johnson caught it all on celluloid and all the freaks (including Kronfeld) got to spill their guts on camera. Of course there was a full-blown convention in Roswell with all manner of junk up for grabs among the polyester clad mutants.
In a flashback sequence filmed a month before this blessed event, Kronfeld is living in Minnesota with his mom. He has an extensive collection of broken cameras, etc that hold an odd fascination for him. His favorite keepsake, he notes, is a model car called “Sweathog’s Dream Machine”. “I just found out the other day that Horschack’s actually gay,” he mutters. Earth-shattering news? For some people, apparently.
In a hilariously telling moment Kronfeld whines to Mom that all of his friends have gone on with their lives and he wants to make that big Roswell trip–where he hopes to get abducted by aliens. “That doesn’t mean you have to move out of the Earth,” she cries waving her hands skyward. (Trust me, lady. Junior’s been in the stratosphere for quite awhile.) Of course, Kronfeld is also a Trekkie, complete with uniform and goofy accessories. In fact, he’s so all-out nuts it all begins to smell like a put-on. Is this man acting? Or is he a delusional sociopath destined to assasinate Ringo Starr just to impress Lieutenant Uhura?!
Back in Roswell the ex-Mayor lets us in on fun facts like Roswell having the world’s largest mozzarella factory”. Clearly, the man is an expert at drumming-up touristry.
And Kronfeld, outside of Minnesota for the first time and away from Mom’s watchful eye, gets a green and orange dye job and has a local hair stylist chop it into something called a “Roswell UFO Haircut”. When he emerges from the barbershop with a self-satisfied smirk, there’s no room left for debate: he’s truly as weird as all outdoors.
As for the other Roswell attendees, it’s amazing to see how many of these yahoos really believe they’ve been abducted by UFOs. Their straight faced accounts of alien encounters are pants-peeing funny!
But, lest you think it was all fun and games, there’s also a tense moment when equally odd “pro-USA” types show up to protest the celebration as anti-American. Their convoluted reasoning is that the government has always denied that the 1947 landing took place. My country right or wrong…or stupid as a ball of twine.
Even Bible-thumpers jump into the fray–no doubt smelling potential Christians–as well as a real pack of suckers with a lot of extra cash to blow on nonsense. And there’s also a lot of dumb sincerity here, too, of course.
What can you say? Timothy B. Johnson has done a masterful job of capturing a certain strain of American wackjob in their natural habitat. The similarly-themed “Trekkies” pales by comparison. Johnson, like Errol Morris, has a keen eye for irony and the ability to get us to empathize with these people at the same we’re laughing at them.