Mirage Men premiers at DocFest

Sheffield’s annual DocFest is one of the highlights of the year for documentary film-makers and investigative journalists.

2013 marks the festival’s 20th anniversary and many of the movers and shakers from the industry will be gathering at venues in the city centre, based in The Showroom & Workstation complex.

The four day event (12-16 June 2013) is sponsored by Sheffield Hallam University and many of the volunteers are students on the university’s Film & Media and journalism courses.

Top of my “must see” list is MIRAGE MEN, the long-awaited film version of the 2010 book of the same name by my colleague and fellow Fortean, Mark Pilkington. Read the Daily Telegraph review of the film here.

The film, co-directed by Mark and John Lundberg, Roland Denning and Kipros Kiprianou, reveals “how the US government created a myth that took over the world”, the myth being belief in UFOs and aliens.

The book is subtitled ‘a journey into disinformation, paranoia and UFOs’ and the film continues the theme in a 89-minute tour-de-force.

It puts some of the foundation stones of the myth under withering scrutiny, from the great-grandaddy of them all – the Roswell ‘crashed saucer’ – to animal mutilations and the MJ-12 controversy.

But the lynchpin of the documentary is the Paul Bennewitz saga and Special Agent Richard Doty’s mercurial role in spreading UFO legendary to what one of the characters describes as “the gullible people in UFOlogy”:

Bennewitz’s troubles began when he spotted strange lights above a secret US Air Force base near his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This kicked off a journey which destroyed his family and eventually landed him in an insane asylum. Bennewitz unluckily came up against a bizarre US intelligence operations: a deliberate disinformation campaign which encouraged belief in UFOs – and threw Russians off the scent of defense development

You can read more about the film and its creators on the Mirage Men website here. It will be screened in the Library Theatre at 1pm on  Thursday 13 June or at 3.30 pm on Saturday 15 June in Showroom 1.

Other festival documentaries include a film about the secret life of celebrity spoon-bender Uri Geller as a psychic spy; another about the internal wars in Scientology and Mark Kermode’s examination of classic horror flick The Exorcist.

Musical highlights include Greg Camalier’s film about legendary recording studio Mussel Shoals and a live performance by British Sea Power of their sublime soundtrack, From The Sea to the Land Beyond. In The Big Melt Sheffield’s finest Jarvis Cocker’s journeys through the soul of the nation, described as “a new kind of heavy metal music with pictures.”

Full details of registration and the festival passes can be found on the official website here.

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