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.

Directed by:
Timothy B. Johnson

Rich Kronfeld




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