“E.T. came home … to Pine Bush. You can too!”
It’s tough to make a documentary about alien encounters because the subject has been done so many times before. With that said, Bill Hussung somehow finds a way. Co-directing with his wife Mishara Canino-Hussung, Adventures of an Earthling, which screened at the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival, finds its voice in the form of a mother’s belief in seeing a football field sized spacecraft when exploring the hotbed of extraterrestrial activity that is Pine Bush—the location of her family’s summer home. Always a skeptic who dismissed the rants as delusions, it wasn’t until adulthood and the discovery of so many other sightings bearing resemblance to hers that Bill decided to find out what was going on. An investigative reporter by trade, he took his skills on the road and headed to the woods to explore, interview other ‘victims’, and see whether maybe his mother spoke the truth after all.
The amount of sightings each year is too large a number to dismiss. As Professor David Jacobs of Temple says, the phenomenon can only result in two possible outcomes—either it’s a psychological issue expressing insanity or it’s really happening. There is no middle ground, you can’t be sane and believe to your core that you saw aliens; it’s all or nothing. This is the real reason Bill was willing to put his feelings aside and see what he could find. He knew his mother wasn’t crazy and all these people can’t be telling the same story from random coincidence. Something bigger was at pay, but he wasn’t quite sure what it was. Calling his mom ‘new age’ before New Age existed, her own place as healer of the forward-thinking church she was a member of never really helped her cause. There was always a sense of the spiritual with her, so even the smallest thing would be able to set her off. Something sure did because she refused to go back to her summer home for weeks after the sighting.
Interspersed with first-hand accounts and Bill’s own experiences looking into the night’s sky, the rest of the film is at an odd angle of the director driving his car. Rather than sitting with a nicely constructed backdrop, setting the stage for what’s to come or for disseminating his thoughts, we watch him in profile, driving the roads and seeing the landmarks with his dog in the backseat. There is the Cup and Saucer Diner out his window; the fields where Phil—the biggest kook of the bunch for non-believers—sets up camp for evening viewings above the horizon when the police don’t ask him to leave, even though he received permission from builders on the land a year before; the boat rides where a numbing contact was made; the stone caves with no origin thought to lead into another dimension; and the home of a man who has fitted cameras at every outside corner to catch the shadowy visage of a figure known to knock at his door. One man speaks about using Jesus’s name to dispel visits and another speaks of the cold, catfish-like texture the little creatures in his bedroom had after grabbing one in anger.
You either believe or you don’t; a film like Adventures of an Earthling isn’t going to change your mind either way. Most of the stuff is laughable, but others do make you say hmm. There are the glowing orbs of lights seen in the sky, 200-ft long cigar-shaped vehicles cutting through trees, and the boomerang of lights seen soaring—even one woman, the late Ellen Crystall, would bring groups of people to the hills and see unexplained things all the time, going on TV to share her experiences. The Hussang’s thankfully don’t try to reenact anything, instead choosing to superimpose crude animation on the interviewees and locations they visit. Admittedly, the playful tone somewhat subverts any chance at giving credence to the stories told, but Bill himself never actually admits to believing, so it would be hypocritical to make his film a call to convert. He sees things that bring a shiver to his spine, but besides learning to accept his mother’s memories as more than fictitious dreams, his opinion remains unchanged.
There is some really interesting information trickled throughout too, whether you care about the sightings or not. Temple having a professor teaching a class on UFOs in American History is utterly fascinating, especially since he admits most retellings to be completely false and exaggerated. He knows, however, that to hold such a strong bond to the memory must mean something occurred. Much of the rest is fluff and redundant tales of ghosts, Moth-Man, and spaceships, but moving through does lead to a phenomenon that piqued my interest. The rock caves’ existence/origins couldn’t mean less to me, but the fact there has been a shift in alien theory to make locations such as these portals to parallel dimensions is fantastic. I love that the inability to prove alien life has been able to morph the public’s thinking into figuring out other ways to solve the mystery. What if they are just life forms from another plane, moving back and forth, allowing us a glimpse through the shimmery border separating us? It’s an inspired idea to make you think, and that’s what this film attempts besides one man’s rejuvenated belief in his mother and a town’s stories put on the record.
courtesy of Adventures of an Earthling official site