I am intrigued by the use of making a documentary as the framing device for a story. It gives a storyteller a lot of options and a lot of leeway when it comes to discovering and delivering information necessary to moving the plot forward and exploring character motivations.
One indie scifi film that used this method quite well was last year’s Phoenix Forgotten, and now Beyond the Sky makes effective use of that same style.
Chris Norton has been searching for the truth since he was seven years old, the night of his birthday when he saw his mother walk out on the family after being hit one too many times by his father. For years, his father has insisted that an extraterrestrial craft abducted his mother moments after she walked out the door, and Chris has been on a mission to prove that alien abduction doesn’t exist, just to force his father to face the truth that it was his abuse that drove her away, not some delusion he created to avoid responsibility and garner attention and sympathy.
Part of his plan is to talk to as many people with abduction experiences who’ll talk to him, and at a convention he meets Emily, a young artist with ties to the Pueblo Reservation who says she’s been abducted by aliens every 7 years since her 7th birthday… and her 28th birthday is only a few days away.
Uncovering new leads in his investigation, Chris and his cameraman Brent, follow them into some curious encounters. They meet with frightened abductees, locals with certainty about what’s going on, and businessmen intent on making sure that the cash flow from UFOlogists and believers isn’t adversely affected because of “the truth” being exposed by an independent reporter with an agenda. But is there a dark secret here, a cruel hoax, or something more?
The approach of having the skeptic meet with circumstances and experiences that challenge his preconceptions and force him to reconsider what he’s always believed to be nonexistent can always lead to fun twists of narrative, and this one has a few that laid out in ways that don’t jolt you out of the story.
The special effects are actually very well done, and the scene compositions are believable in the docu-style manner of shooting. Some exposition feels a little drawn out, or too cryptic, but still feels balanced as the story progresses. Most of the action takes place in the final 20 minutes, and feels a little compressed, to the point of bring rushed through.
I am disappointed at what seem to be some careless stereotypes representing residents of the Laguna Pueblo reservation, but I don’t know how much of those scenes were written or filmed with input from the Pueblo people, but I’d like to find out if those scenes were representation or appropriation.
Guest appearances by Dee Wallace as a shop owner and Peter Stormare as Chris’ father are far too short, but given the story structure it might have been hard to explain giving them too much more screen time. There could have been some additional discoveries about Chris’ childhood divulged from more footage with his father, but one of the twists was a nice reveal, even if some of the motives left me with more questions than answers.
Rating: 3 stars
Beyond the Sky is available now on Digital. The blu-ray/DVD will be available on November 6th, and will contain bonus features:
· Interview with Travis Walton, Alien Abductee and Author of “Fire in the Sky”
· Interview with Navajo Artist at the International UFO Congress.
Chris Norton has been hearing about alien abductions his entire life but, in his gut, he knows they are not real. Setting out to disprove the alien abduction phenomenon once and for all, he attends a UFO convention to meet alleged abductees and reveal the truth behind their experiences. It is only when he meets Emily, who claims to have been abducted every seven years on her birthday, that Chris realizes there may be more to these claims than meets the eye. With Emily’s 28th birthday only days away, Chris helps her to uncover the truth as they come face to face with the reality that we are not alone.
Cast: Ryan Carnes, Jordan Hinson, Peter Stormare and Dee Wallace
Directed by: Fulvio Sestito
Screenplay: Warren Thomas, Rebecca Berrih, Marc Porterfield, Fulvio Sestito
Story by: Warren Thomas, Rebecca Berrih, Fulvio Sestito