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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 10.01.15] Denmark documentary

Imagine that you wake up tomorrow morning and while watching/reading/mainlining the news, you see a headline that reads something along the lines of "Aliens Have Landed on Earth." We've seen the Hollywood take on the close encounter – hostility, military in full response mode, guns blazing - but is that the way humanity would really respond?

In haunting fashion, very much reminiscent of his previous documentaries, filmmaker Michael Madsen takes on the ultimate "what if" scenario exploring how humanity would react in case of a close encounter with an alien being(s) and to work through the step-by-step of the scenario with the help of the people who are, in real life, tasked with that job.

We may not realize it but somewhere along the line, world organizations have actually considered how to deal with this event and the United Nations, the organization that represents the largest percentage of the world's population, has an office dedicated with organizing the group that will make first contact with the landing party. The Office for Outer Space Affairs is a real thing, an office led by an astrophysicist whose job is to devise a plan and organize the team, made up of experts from various fields, from biology and theology, responsible for first contact. Madsen, with the help of experts ranging from a retired lawyer who has spent a large part of his time thinking and speculating about interstellar law, to former British military leaders and media experts, walk through the step-by-step of how to deal with the landing considering everything from a media blackout to the exact wording to use in the press releases to minimize hysteria.

The group also walk through the considerations that have been reviewed prior to first encounter. The very fact that the alien has landed means that it is likely not here to destroy us – at least not immediately; if that was the intent, it would have taken care of that from outer space. So why is it here? The group of experts speculate how the event would unfold in minute detail and it's both a fascinating and scary exercise.

Madsen's films have a haunting quality to them. Beautiful images set to music and voiceover that capture the seriousness and gravity of the subject matter and the approach works beautifully here to accompany the images, themes and subject matter of The Visit. In a present where alien stories go hand-in-hand with sensationalism and incredulity and in the face of our ever changing understanding of the universe and the growing knowledge that life beyond our planet is likely, the OOSA seems not only a good idea but a requirement and I, for one, am thankful that someone has and is considering how to handle the first encounter.

The Visit is a fantastic introduction not only to the group but to serious consideration of first contact.

Recommended Release: Another Earth

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