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The Phenomenon Review: Is it Time to Believe?

There’s a famous quote attributed to German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. It states, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

If Schopenhauer is correct, which ridiculous modern-day concepts will we one day accept as facts? Filmmaker James Fox has an easy answer: UFOs.

Fox‘s latest documentary, The Phenomenon, challenges the public’s perception of UFOs. While most of the scientific community ridicule and oppose belief in the phenomenon, Fox’s doc makes a compelling case that the UFO skeptics are behind the times. According to Fox, not only are UFOs real, their existence is self-evident.

Let’s start with an undeniable fact. For over 75 years, people have reported seeing strange objects in the sky. We can all agree on this much, right? Whether you think UFO witnesses are seeing ball lightning, weather balloons, or even falling for hoaxes, people do see strange things in our skies. Fox starts with this basic fact and then builds a pro-phenomenon case that’s hard to argue with.

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The Phenomenon is a fascinating documentary, regardless of whether you believe in UFOs. Narrated by Peter Coyote, Fox loads the film with mysterious cases that defy explanation. Even if you think all UFO sightings are explainable, these witness testimonies are riveting. At worst, they’re like sensational campfire stories, and who doesn’t enjoy those? If you believe these UFO witnesses are deluded, most of the doc’s subjects come across as well-adjusted folks who seem rational. And after listening to their many earnest stories, it’s hard to write them all off as kooks and liars.

The problem with studying UFO’s is that ufology is littered with wild stories. You may believe a witness’s account of spotting a glowing craft speeding through the night sky. That is until the witness says that aliens landed in their backyard and took them on a trip to Venus. Believing that claim takes a Grand Canyon-sized leap of faith. Although The Phenomenon’s witness accounts sound implausible, Fox avoids the sensationalism found in most paranormal investigation docs. When compared to Ghosthunters and Ancient Aliens, this film is like a David Attenborough nature doc. If I had to sum up The Phenomenon in one word, that word would be credible.

Fox cherry-picks from decades of notable UFO encounters to present a handful of uncanny cases. He pulls from newspaper clips, interviews, and TV broadcasts to deliver a host of unusual real-life accounts. One story describes how, in 1952, air traffic controllers picked up mysterious objects violating the restricted airspace over Washington. Flagging the incursion as a threat, the military scrambled fighter jets to defend the nation’s capital.

There’s also the 1964 case of Lonnie Zamora, a cop in Socorro, New Mexico who alleges he came across a grounded metallic craft and two small beings. Investigators who examined the site would later discover scorched earth and indentations in the soil where Zamora said the vessel had landed.

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Most chilling are the reports of objects flying over high-security military installations and manipulating nuclear weapons. These stories sound like the stuff of science-fiction, but they’re backed up by dependable sources.

But again, I have to go back to the word credibility. It’s not random YouTubers making these extraordinary claims. The witnesses in the doc are rational, trustworthy people; pilots, cops, high-ranking military personnel, government officials, and journalists. Most of them aren’t looking to write books or go on talk show tours. In many cases, disclosing their UFO encounters only hurt their careers, but they felt obligated to share their remarkable experiences. One must ask themselves why anyone would feel compelled to do such a thing?

One telling bit of info revealed in the doc is that the military has moved away from using the term UFO (unidentified flying object). They still investigate the phenomenon, but they refer to it by a different name. Today, they call these objects UAPs (unidentified aerial phenomenon).

To-may-to, to-mah-toe, right? Not exactly. This change tells us that credible investigators want to remove the crackpot stigma associated with UFOs – men in black, invaders from Mars, reptilian shapeshifters. These institutions are still actively investigating what’s behind this strange phenomenon. So the last thing they need is Americans thinking the military spends their tax dollars chasing little green men.

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So, the real question here is how has the government spent decades investigating UFOs/UAPs if there’s nothing to the phenomenon but hoaxes and hysteria? What is it then that witnesses see in the skies? What are radar operators picking up on their screens? Today the easy answer is drones. The problem with that theory is people have recorded advanced aircraft making seemingly impossible maneuvers in the sky since the ‘40s. Even if most of today’s unexplainable sightings are drones – which the film boldly states is unlikely – what were people seeing 30, 40, and 50 years ago?

The Phenomenon features some of the biggest names in modern ufology; Jacques Vallée, Commander David Fravor, and former senate majority leader Harry Reid, to name a few. Vallée is one of the most respected and critically minded UFO investigators in the game. Reid is the senator who allocated government funding to studying UFOs. And Fravor experienced the most famous UFO sighting in modern ufology. The film has no short supply of accomplished interviewees. What it is lacking, though, is skeptical interview subjects who can debunk the cases presented in the movie.

The Phenomenon stands out for assembling a host of credible cases and believable witnesses accounts without resorting to the sensational claims that plague most paranormal investigation docs. This well-argued film doesn’t offer a definitive answer to the UFO/UAP phenomenon, but it will challenge most viewers’ perceptions of this modern mystery.

If you’re already a UFO nerd, you won’t find too much new material to discover here but don’t let that stop you from watching this intriguing movie. Fox covers plenty of familiar ground (like the Roswell crash and the Ariel School encounter) but does so in such an engaging way you’ll be happy to go along for the ride. If you’re a newbie to the world of ufology, prepare to have your mind blown. Fox has delivered one of the strongest arguments for the existence of UFOs ever put to film.

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