THE BUMBRY ENCOUNTER / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & WRITER: JAY K. RAJA / STARRING: LAUREN McCFALL, SKIPPER ELEKWACHI, ROSS TURNER / RELEASE DATE: SCREENING AT SELECTED FESTIVALS (CLICK FOR INFO)
The Bumbry Encounter is based on the story of Betty and Barney Hill who had the first well-publicised alien abduction in 1961 and, like them, the Bumbrys are a mixed race couple who are driving at night when they see a UFO. The following day, in their own home, the shady Dr Bancroft - with police officers lurking in the background - interviews traumatised Jackie Bumbry, while husband Terry is dealt with in a separate room. Jackie is confused by the line of questioning. Dr Bancroft is particularly suspicious about her torn dress and black eye, and regards it as the work of an alien - but possibly not an extraterrestrial one!
The scenes in the ‘safety’ of their home are as creepy as those in the car when they first saw the UFO. The passive presence of the police underlines - or at least suggests - Dr Bancroft is working for the authorities. It makes us wonder if he is on a mission to suppress and cover up their story, or is he helping them understand what really happened? This ambiguity takes director / writer Jay K. Raja's production beyond the usual clumsy 'aliens are invading us' scenario.
It does make it worthwhile to compare and contrast this with The UFO Incident, a made-for-TV movie that was the first cinematic portrayal of the Hill encounter with James Earl Jones as Barney Hill and Estelle Parsons as Betty Hill. The 1975 movie shows psychiatrist Dr Benjamin Simon interviewing them, with Barney acknowledging that he had suffered racial abuse during childhood. Under hypnosis, it is revealed they were abducted and medically examined by extraterrestrials who treated them like intriguing biological specimens.
The alien abduction theme has since become an established part of ufology and ET believers, and for countless films, so it is refreshing that The Bumbry Encounter takes a different view of the subject.
Although it only runs for 15 minutes, this film is outstanding in its use of the historical setting, costume, special effects, lighting, music and storyline. The blinding light of the UFO and the opening sequence owe much to Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and the '60s setting is much like that of the Mad Men TV series. The Bumbry Encounter cleverly blends science fiction with the racial politics and racism of the period. See it at the first opportunity before the MIB get you.