This year’s UFO documentary at CPH:DOX is about much more than mysterious flying objects in space. It is also about “friendship, hope, and of man as a quite small and insignificant creature”, said Kerstin Übelacker and Michael Cavanagh when CPH:DOX met the film’s two directors.
The archives began accumulating as Clas Svahn joined the the association UFO-Sweden during the Cold War. Now Clas is the association’s president and sits in a basement filled with big, thick brown folders where all mysterious sightings are documented. Most observed flying objects have been found to be aircrafts, birds or satellites, whereas a few still remain unexplained.
Those mysterious sightings are the focal point of the documentary film ‘Ghost Rockets’ showing at this year’s CPH:DOX. But the film is also about UFO-Sweden and the community and solidarity that exist within the small association.
“The purpose of the documentary is not to prove or disprove.”
For four years, the two directors Kerstin Übelacker and Michael Cavanagh followed Clas and the rest of UFO-Sweden, and the two directors explain that the film is not a typical documentary in which “men with silly hair sit in front of a green screen talking about aliens and life in outer space”. The purpose of the documentary is not to prove or disprove the existence of extraterrestrial life, but to find out why the members of the small association spend their time investigating the mysterious ghost rockets.
Kerstin Übelacker and Michael Cavanagh have given us an honest (and unbiased) insight into the small association, which often faces prejudice in their field of interest. The film’s main character, Clas Svahn, is a reporter for Sweden’s largest newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, and chairman of UFO-Sweden. It was the pragmatic Clas that the director team found appealing: “I saw Clas as an expert in a regular UFO documentary, but his approach to the UFO mystery was very different from the other experts. He explained that he did not know anything for sure about life on other planets, but that he wanted to try and figure it out. And then I thought: “who is he?”, says Michael Cavanagh.
UFO-Sweden as a metaphor for all kinds of mysteries.
Michael Cavamagh, who has grown up on shows like Star Trek and X-Files, thinks that the UFO genre is particularly interesting, but that UFO documentaries often give questionable evidence and conclusions based on speculation. ‘Ghost Rockets’ is another form of UFO-documentary, where it is not about determining whether there is life outside planet Earth.
“Many have asked if we found the ghost rockets, and wether we believed that there is life in outer space, but it was not really what we wanted. We were interested in examining why people were spending time on this, why is it important to find alien life?”, says the other half of the directing team Kerstin Übelacker and continues: “we were interested in observing, and what is in the film is what we saw.”
Therefore ‘Ghost Rockets’ is not only about life in space, but also about life on earth and sharing the puzzles of life with each other. “The mysteries of the so-called ghost rockets are a metaphor for all sorts of mysteries,” says Kerstin Übelacker”. UFO-Sweden tries to find answers to life’s questions, and does not necessarily have anything to do with the fact that they are interested in aliens, UFOs and ghost rockets. “It could have been any case we chose to examine – a bowling team or a stamp club. It’s about people who have a common interest for many years, and how it has shaped a community,” continues Kerstin Übelacker.
The films portrays the Swedish UFO enthusiasts sharing a common dream: to answer the biggest questions and to unravel the the enigma of the mysterious ghost rockets. In that way, ‘Ghost Rockets’ is a universal film about “friendship, hope and of man as a quite small and significant creature”.