Saturday, May 08, 2010

Review: Stanton T. Friedman Is Real

What's with the organ music?

Opening scene, "Stanton T. Friedman Is Real." The doc's subject is standing at a podium, speaking at the 2001 MUFON conference. In the background a musical selection is played, added post-production, the kind of tonal atmosphere one would hear at an old time tent revival decades ago in rural USA.

I suspected why Paul Kimball, the documentarian, picked that particular piece. I'm not surprised when later on an interviewee refers to Stan as an "evangelist."

But despite that editorial musical commentary, STFIR is a balanced documentary, showing different POVs regarding Stan's work and the ufological field in general. I was an "informed viewer" going in, i.e., I was familiar with the subject matter. But the doc still held my interest; I learned all sorts of new stuff.

Also, it's doubtful I'll ever make to Roswell during one of its goofy Crash Festivals, but STFIR shows some scenes giving a viewer a feel for the place and its cash cow event.

Paul does have an eye for recording or setting up a scene. Yes, there are some staged ones -- Stan walking down the middle of an empty road in the middle of nowhere, straight towards the camera on the pavement -- but such scenes do work. Paul also engages in other cinematic tricks, tilting the camera or presenting scenes in black-and-white, but these tricks enhance, not detract from, the doc. Let's face it: a documentary with only talking heads, one interviewee after another giving his opinion, can be boring, despite how interesting the comments may be.

Among those interviewed are Kevin Randle and the late Karl Pflock, familiar names in the UFO field. Like I said before, I was already interested in the topic, having read and researched saucer stuff for many years. I wonder how well this doc would play to someone with little knowledge of ufology. Would it hold their attention? STFIR does move along at a good pace and as noted does have a few visual tricks so maybe it would play well to a general audience.

Also, Stan's personality comes through, especially during the segments of his lectures. Talking about "the Cosmic Watergate," Stan holds up some government materials he gathered through the Freedom Of Information Act, pages of redacted sections, each page almost completely covered by black boxes. Useless to a researcher. Such a presentation does play well to a general audience.

So how did Paul Kimball convince Stan to be in this documentary? One could call it nepotism: Stan is Paul's uncle. I'm not knocking it. The avuncular relationship probably helped to put Stan at ease during the filming, letting his personality shine through.

But there is one question left unanswered for me. How did Stan react to the doc? After the first viewing, did he turn to Paul in the screening room and ask:

"Hey, nephew, what's with the organ music?"

(In case the above link is missing or broken, "Stanton T. Friedman Is Real" can be viewed on You Tube.)


Paul Kimball said...


Glad you liked the film.

A couple of points. I approached Stan about doing a film on him all those years ago because I thought it would be an interesting story. Originally, I was not the director - a friend of mine named Evangelo Kioussis was slated to direct, while I would produce. However, EK stepped aside before filming began when we agreed that it was really a story I was better suited to tell.

As to why Stan agreed to do the film, you would have to ask him. He always said he was happy with the final product, and has sold it on his website and at conferences ever since. Conversely, his critics were just as happy with it, feeling that they had been fairly represented.

In the end, that's all a documentary maker can strive for.

And yes, the organ music, much to the consternation of a few "true believers" over the years, is meant to draw a parallel between Stan and an old-time evangelist - but that's what he is. The idea actualy came from Barry Downing's comment, which appears in the film when he's talking about Stan at a MUFON lecture.

I have to admit, however - if I had it to do over again, I would have used peppier evangelical music! ;-)

Best regards,

X. Dell said...

Kimball's comment is an interesting read. I'm hardly a Stanton Friedman acolyte, but it seemed to me that he came out on top of this discussion.

The organ music reminds me of what Jung wrote about UFOs, namely that ufology could be psychology's chance to witness the creation of a religion as it is happening.