|Six Days in Roswell
review by Dan Lybarger, 14 July 2000
Legions of documentaries have
asked if an extraterrestrial spacecraft really crashed outside of
Roswell, NM on July 4, 1947. Freshman feature director Timothy B.
Johnson manages to make a potentially moldy subject fresh by asking
the previously unuttered question, "How has Roswell reacted to
its status as the UFO capital of the world?"
According to Six
Days in Roswell, the answer is with great pride. The town is full of signs illustrated with little green men. A
billboard for a local church even features a bald alien kneeling
before the Lord. Exploring this spaceman-obsessed world is Richard
Kronfeld, who briefly appeared in Trekkies.
Kronfeld is a man with unusual tastes (he owns a bizarre collection
of educational filmstrips) and a simple ambition: he wants to be
abducted by space aliens. To act on his desire, he boards a bus with
fellow alien enthusiasts and heads from Minneapolis to Roswell to
Roswell for the fiftieth anniversary of the famous crash. While
there, Kronfeld samples everything from Alien Pale Ale to a UFO
haircut. He also quizzes alleged abductees to discover why he and
his fellow Minnesotans never seem to get captured. He even checks
out Roswell, The Musical.
Several of the people he encounters
appear to be mere hucksters. One merchant flatly admits that,
"Anything with ‘alien’ in it sells." Some of the
people, however, appear lucid and sincere when they recall meeting
the otherworldly visitors. Others, like a man who claims that aliens
wanted his feces, appear just plain nuts.
Much of what happens in Six
Days in Roswell would seem an easy target for ridicule. For
example, how else would one treat a local commercial where aliens
land on this planet to score some beef jerky? Fortunately, Kronfeld
and Johnson have an affection for the subject matter. Kronfeld’s
bizarre home life is exaggerated for the movie, but his fondness for
all things alien is genuine. Like Trekkies, which Six Days in
Roswell producer-editor Roger Nygard directed, the new film
indicates there’s a deeper significance to the fascination many of
us have toward the subject. Having a close encounter gives a person
a sense of identity or at least an interesting story to tell. The
thought of other intelligent beings out there also makes life in
this world seem less lonely and absurd. It also eerily reflects
people’s attitudes about more earthbound subjects. Some use the
Roswell incident to further their already smoldering suspicions of
the U.S. government, and the owner of an alien art gallery is
concerned that children see extraterrestrials in a positive, less
fearful light. Even the Roswell churches get into the act. One group
refers to Jesus as the "Head Alien" while others dismiss
the aliens as demonic.
Kronfeld and Johnson give the
subject of aliens and our reaction to them a good deal more wit and
insight than it usually receives. At times, however, it would have
been nice if they had put a stronger faith in their subject. Some of
the "dramatized" humor works, like Kronfeld’s run in
with shotgun fanatics. Other bits do not. Having Kronfeld playing a
sullen loner who lives with his worrywart mother seems a little too
hackneyed to be funny.
Still, Kronfeld’s hosting
approach is often refreshing. Instead of holding himself up as an
authority or as a neutral observer, he makes a dufus of himself and
has a great time doing so. Because he’s willing to poke fun at
himself, Six Days in Roswell
never feels like a cheap joke. Even if the thought of watching yet
another documentary on life on other worlds makes you cringe,
Kronfeld and Johnson also know how to make you appreciate the
occasionally strange beliefs of others and laugh with them instead
of at them.
Click here to read Dan Lybarger's interview
with Tim Johnson.