A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Phenomenon is a documentary about the potential existence of UFOs, as well as possible government attempts to cover them up. While it offers little actual proof, it does present enough evidence to make the case that we should be exploring further, learning more, and declassifying what information the government already has. The nature of the content and some iffy parts make it best for teens and adults. Expect to hear talk of whether aliens are a threat to humans and mention of nuclear weapons. Language is infrequent but includes uses of "f--k," "s--t," "hell," and "my God." A pinup-style picture is seen on the side of an old airplane. And in old TV footage, journalist Mike Wallace is shown smoking a cigarette and naming the brand on the air.
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What's the story?
In THE PHENOMENON, documentary filmmaker James Fox goes deep behind the scenes of many of the UFO sightings around the world since the late 1940s, as well as supposed government attempts to cover up and silence all of it. Pilots and groups of schoolchildren describe the same phenomena all over the world and across decades. They report seeing metallic, disc-shaped crafts that are capable of incredible speeds and changing directions on a dime. Others tell stories of being approached by officials and being told to keep quiet ... or else. Over the years, some politicians have tried to get UFO-related files declassified, but to no avail. Are alien visitors real, or is it all an elaborate fraud?
Is it any good?
Guided by Peter Coyote's smooth, authoritative narration and featuring tons of interviews and archival footage, this film on the existence of UFOs and their cover-up is unexpectedly convincing. Directed by James Fox, who's been making films on this subject for decades, The Phenomenon is so professional and journalistic that -- despite its dramatic "re-creation" footage -- it may leave you shocked, shaking your head in disbelief, or perhaps even believing in alien visitors. It's interesting to hear interviewees who cover so many years and so much distance -- especially a haunting encounter that occurred in 1994 Zimbabwe -- describe virtually the same details again and again.
Of course, repetition doesn't necessarily make something true, but The Phenomenon is wise enough to turn its focus on history: the first photographs, the first sighting of "little men," the rise and fall of the Air Force's "Project Blue Book," and the ongoing efforts of researcher Jacques Vallee (who was the basis of Francois Truffaut's character in Close Encounters of the Third Kind) to gather his own data and Senator Harry Reid, who's tried to have relevant government information declassified. The movie ultimately makes the case that enough evidence exists that it would make sense to continue the study, which also raises the question: Why would anyone want to cover it up?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Phenomenon's mentions of threat and violence. Why, when given the information that aliens may be visiting, do people often react with the question of whether they're friendly or hostile?
Did the movie make you believe in UFOs? Why or why not?
Why, when people say they believe in UFOs, is there often a stigma attached?
Why do you think anyone would make up a story about seeing a UFO? Conversely, why would the government cover up information about UFOs?
If aliens have tried to contact us, what do you think they're trying to say?
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