Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Truth Is Out There ★★★½

Picking Up Where Mulder And The Lone Gunmen Left Off

Written by Matt Giles
Edited by Erin Accomando

When people ask me what my favorite show on television was my response is The X-Fileswithout even thinking about it. It’s a show that continues to have a special place in my heart because it represented nerdy guys like myself and did so respectfully. That representation was perhaps best illustrated by Mulder’s (David Duchovny) three wisecracking sidekicks known as The Lone Gunmen. These characters we so popular that there was a even a spin-off series entitled, The Lone Gunmen, that put these guys front and center, focusing each week on their misadventures. That series was cancelled and after The X-Files ended its nine-year run it seemed as though that would be the last we would see these three heroes and the world of conspiracy they and the show opened up. At least until now.

Dean Haglund, who played Langly - the computer hacking, Ramones loving, longhaired rebel - has returned - or perhaps never left - in a documentary released last year by Phil Leirness aptly called, The Truth Is Out There. Mr. Haglund has very much remained in the world of conspiracy, attending various conventions all over the world in search of a universal truth. The documentary explores this journey and asks if that truth is attainable.

The film begins by introducing us to the veteran television actor, showcasing his skills as an improv comic and following him around several conventions as he talks with people about the nature of conspiracy. At first each conspiracy seems different from the other, but about 10 minutes in you start seeing how every one of them connects to another. Every person Mr. Haglund interviews has something both fascinating and, at times, quite disturbing to say.

An example of this comes from the interviewee who I thought was most engaging, G. Edward Griffin. In talking about cancer and how it’s currently treated, he argues that the focus should not be on killing tumors but instead asking the question of why the tumor grew where it did in the first place. Furthermore, he mentions that there are certain areas of the world where cancer is virtually unheard of because amygdalin - a compound that when used properly attacks cancer cells - is found in much of the food that the people in these areas consume. It is eye-opening, jaw-dropping material that illustrates this film's importance. Other theories that may surprise viewers include a moment where Mr. Haglund states that the Kennedy assassination was actually a suicide and a moment in Berlin when Mr. Leirness, who appears briefly, talks about the theory that certain filmmakers and showrunners, including Chris Carter, are mouthpieces for The Illuminati.

For me, the most disturbing area explored in the documentary was in relation to our food supply, which is explained by Dr. Stanley Monteith. He states that roughly 85% of our corn and 90% of our soy is genetically modified for the purposes of sterilizing the population. You may feel the urge to roll your eyes at a statement like that, but if you reserve judgement and listen to what he has to say, you might start paying closer attention to what you eat.

What the film does best is give voice to these people who are usually silenced or ignored. It dives head first into territory that many might find uncomfortable, with Mr. Haglund serving as our tour guide. One of the complaints I’ve heard about the film is that it’s two long (it clocks in at just under two-and-a-half hours) and that some of the people interviewed could have been cut. This is truly a subjective criticism (but then again, aren’t they all?) in that this is one of those rare movies that give no two people the same experience. The interviewees I enjoyed most could very well be the people that someone else feels could have been cut and vice versa. It’s that attribute that makes this film such an enjoyable experience despite some of the difficult areas it explores.

In addition, it's a film that welcomes repeated viewing; you get something new out of it each time. There is a lot of information thrown at you and at times it's hard to keep everything straight, as this is such unfamiliar subject matter for most people. (I have about three pages worth of notes from my most recent viewing.) It's an example of a filmmaker showing respect to his subject matter, giving them the platform upon which to stand.

It's as much a film about Mr. Haglund as it is the "friends of truth" as they're known, which at first might confuse the people who seek this film out. However, at one critical point in the film, Mr. Haglund states that as a young man he was often criticized for not sticking with one thing. In that scene everything about the film becomes clear: We've jumped from conspiracy to conspiracy, country to country, and learned who Mr. Haglund is along the way. What better way to exemplify this man than to show us what his life is like through the film's editing? Mr. Leirness, who in addition to directing edited the film, deserves an award for editing all of this material and doing so in such a way as to serve who Mr. Haglund is.

What The Lone Gunmen series did was show that unlikely heroes exist all around us and in many forms. These were characters unafraid to find the truth, going so far as to sacrifice their lives to save many others at the end of The X-Files' run. My favorite line of the show came from Byers (Bruce Harwood, who reunites with Mr. Haglund and Tom Braidwood in the film) who tells his colleagues, "We never gave up and we never will. In the end if that's the best they can say about us, it'll do." It's comforting to know that Mr. Haglund is still fighting the good fight and that the themes both shows explored all those years ago on television remain an integral part of this man's life.

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