Film-making has got to be among the most difficult careers in the world. More so if the topic of your film is something as mercurial and controversial as the UFO phenomenon. If you’re going to make a movie about tigers then you know that if you travel to the jungles of Southeast Asia (or Oklahoma) chances are you’ll be able to film some tigers. If your movie is about mount Everest you can book your plane ticket to Nepal with full confidence that the mountain isn’t going anywhere. But with UFOs, you will always be two steps behind them, so filmmakers need to follow a ‘cold case’ approach: visit the ‘crime scene’, interview the witnesses and the experts, perhaps even analyze trace evidence, if any; but the chances of capturing with your camera a bonafide flying saucer –or at the very least a fuzzy orange orb– are close to nil.
Yet that does not exclude the possibility of really weird things happening during the production of a UFO film. Nietzche’s famous quote, “If you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you” is often invoked in paranormal circles, to illustrate how showing an active interest in these mysteries can often carry some unforeseen circumstances…
Take for instance the documentary Witness of Another World (Testigo de Otro Mundo) released originally in 2018 (last year with English subtitles) by Argentinian filmmaker Alan Stivelman. The film focuses on the story of Juan Pérez, who in 1978 was a very young ‘gaucho’ (a South American cowboy) who had an incredible close encounter of the third kind; a case so remarkable it merited the personal investigation by none other than Dr. Jacques Vallee. WoAW shows, among other things, how Juan’s experience forced him to isolate himself from society and even from his own family; living as a recluse in a small cabin with no electricity or even running water, with no other company than his animals with whom he claims to be able to communicate. For you see, like many other UFO experiencers, Juan developed what can only be described as psychic abilities, including the gift –or is that a curse?– of prophetic dreams.
[Minor Spoilers Ahead] In the film there’s a scene in which Dr. Néstor Berlanda –a professional psychiatrist who’s been treating Juan for many years– is shown conducting a sort of hypnotic regression therapy on him, in order to reveal more information of what happened on that fateful morning of September 6th, 1978, when the (then) 12-year-old boy who was sent by his father to fetch their herd of horses, found himself instead face to face with a shiny object which his juvenile mind first mistook for a ‘tractor’ or a ‘barn’, and inside the ‘barn’ he encountered two non-human entities (a very tall humanoid, and a smaller being which looked like a robot). On a podcast interview that my friend Greg Bishop and I recorded with Alan, among our many questions for him we asked about that scene in particular, because we’re both keenly aware of the backlash generated by the use of hypnosis in abduction research due to the potential risk of implanting false memories in the witness.
Alan explained to us the procedure Dr. Berlanda had applied on Juan carried no such risk, because was different from the typical hypnosis performed by therapists, and that it was more a method of ‘relaxation’ than an actual trance-like state –of course, critics could argue that relaxation is the whole point of hypnosis, so I guess Dr. Berlanda could be the only one able to explain the difference in detail. Another aspect of the therapy scene Greg had found very interesting was how, at one point in the session, Berlanda suggests Juan to ‘ask’ questions to the tall humanoid –like “why are they here?” or “why did you choose me?”– to which he apparently received some surprising answers.
“What would be the point of asking such questions,” Greg asked Alan, “if they hadn’t really taken place during the original event of 1978?” Was Berlanda trying to help Juan attain some sort of closure by way of filling the gaps of his encounter using his own imagination?
“No,” Alan said to us. In what would seem as a total departure from causality and logic, Berlanda had discovered that by taking Juan in the proper state of mind, he was apparently not only able to remember what had taken place to him in the past, but also he was able to communicate with ‘them’ as if they were there during the session in the present time!
As incredible as this may sound, there is at least another example in the UFO literature in which similar interactions with alleged alien intelligences while in the presence of independent researchers have been documented: I’m talking here of course of the hypnotic sessions with Betty Andreasson Luca, as described by author Raymond E. Fowler in his classic book The Andreasson Affair.
According to Fowler, during the 12th regression session which was conducted on July 16, 1977, the MUFON investigators were attempting to extract more details about the event that happened to Betty and her family on January of 1967 –when she was taken from her home and led by a group of ‘gray aliens’ to a circular craft, and from there to another realm in which she received visions of a mystical nature– when suddenly Betty’s mind spontaneously ‘shifted’ from her past memories to the present, and she found herself unable to move her arms and legs. She also felt as if someone or something was controlling her words, and suddenly, to the amazement of everyone present, she began to talk with a mechanical tone in an unknown language –this “star language” was later determined to be very similar to ancient Gaelic.
At one point it seemed as the hypnosis with Andreasson had turned into a mediumship session, and the investigators were trying to ask direct questions to the intelligence or intelligences controlling Betty, who was answering them in plain English –although the meaning of the replies still remained too cryptic. At other times, the flow of the communication and the messages in the “star language” were interrupted by meaningless bursts like “Base 32 — Base 32 — Signal Base 32,” and it was later suggested messages from a truck driver using a CB radio was messing with the ‘alien transmission’ hijacking Betty’s mind.
Could it be that electromagnetic signals generated by human technology could actually interfere with the ‘superior technology’ of UFOs? Although no one is able to answer that question, basically every UFOlogist accepts that the opposite is true –based for example on the many cases in which automobile engines have been shut down by the close proximity of a UFO, which is attributed to the tremendous magnetic field surrounding these objects affecting the car’s alternator.
Which brings us back to Witness of Another World, and two other fascinating incidents occurring during the filming of that intriguing hypnotic session between Dr. Berlanda and Juan, which Alan shared with Greg and I during our interview (despite the fact that they were not mentioned in his documentary): During the shooting of that scene –which took place inside’s Juan humble house in the middle of the Argentinian pampa– all the lights in the camera crew’s equipment began to flicker all at once; an inexplicable phenomenon, given how they were being powered with independent batteries.
Even more fantastic still, is that every single member of Alan’s team –with the exception of himself and Dr. Berlanda– fell asleep at the exact moment when Berlanda told Juan to ask the questions to the tall humanoid, and they didn’t wake up until the session ended.
Both Greg and I were totally dumbfounded when Alan told us these things via Skype, in October of 2019. It goes without saying that to this day he doesn’t have an explanation to why these things happened while he was making his movie, and neither have I. Perhaps part of the answer lies in what Betty Andreasson told to the MUFON investigators while she was in hypnotic trance in 1977: That, to these beings –whatever they are wherever they come from– “the future and the past are the same as today.”