Credits: Directed by Matthew Navant
Synopsis: Two documentary filmmakers accidentally uncover the greatest moon secret the world has never known, and the powerful organisation determined to keep it that way.
The truth is in here.
Fantastic Planet Film Festival: Utterly drenched in the convoluted lore that exists within the world of UFO-cultists, fringe-science theorists and anti-establishment agitators, Matthew J Avant’s time-traveller-themed mock-umentary is seriously wacky but undeniably compelling. A cult following amongst those that still have a Fox Mulder poster pinned to their man-cave wall is a certainty.
The main protagonists are three inquisitive men who seem old enough to know better – Nate (Nathan Avant), Arte (Arte Richard) and the occasionally-glimpsed director of the faux doco (Jed Himel). The trio are made aware of a tape of a frantic late-night conspiracy-themed radio show caller, who sounds delusional and paranoid but also inconsolably frightened; the voice rants about the ‘city on the moon’, aka Lunopolis, and how the US government has known about the existence of a centuries-old lunar population that have lived amongst us for decades.
Intrigued, the three men investigate a package sent to the radio station that contains a polaroid photo, which may or may not be inscribed with map co-ordinates. Upon investigation, Nate and Arte uncover an underground facility in the bayous of Louisiana... which contains a reality-bending back-pack...that runs on a glowing green moon rock... that is central to the philosophies of the Church of Lunology... which may be a cover for the moon people. Like I said, wacky.
For most of its first half, Lunopolis bounces along at a captivating pace holding one’s attention with deftly-handled humour, a fun, natural chemistry between the leads and a growing sense of menace (seems the Church of Lunologists subscribe to the same ‘use-by-2012’ calendar as the Mayans). A visit to the Church’s nondescript headquarters and a run-in with its mysterious inhabitants is a highlight, especially the surprising mode of escape that a carload of Lunologists choose to employ.
Director Avant initially paints the average Lunologist (who resembles the mythical ‘tall-blond-men’ that UFOlogists and alien abductees speak of) as a blinkered and potentially dangerous follower of an unsubstantiated prophet, one J. Ari Hilliard. Though the film’s main aim is to be a smart sci-fi thriller, it also scores points for its obvious-but-endearing skewering of Scientology.
It will be the mid-section of the film, in which gravel-voiced backwoods loner David James (a charismatic Dave Potter) enlightens the film crew as to the vastness of the Lunologist’s impact on mankind, where the believers and non-believers will part ways. Set to a beating-heart music track, James and a procession of intercut academic types provide irrefutable truths pertaining to the intricacies of science, culture, religion and the supernatural, all of which seem to have been formed by ‘transient dimensionaries’ – moon people who exist across the multiple plans of reality in which we all co-exist.
This wad of exposition, lengthy but expertly cut-together, repositions the film as a dense hybrid of Alex Proyas’ Dark City (1998) and the new-agey, quantum-physics specu-mentary What The #$*! Do We Know?! (2004). It sucks some of the fun out of the picture but also goes to show just how much thought multi-hyphenate Avant and his producer Hal Maynor afforded the complex premise. The finale – the tricky, double-helix denouement of the myriad of story strands and visual clues – is both ‘sci-fi cool’ and emotionally impactful. If you’re still with the film come the end credits roll, Lunopolis’ mix of genre thrills, seamless no-budget effects and ‘The Truth Is Out There’ theorising will have proved every bit as irresistible to you as it did to me.
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