What is the difference between a cult and a religion? And why do some of us believe a man was able to part the sea in half to create a path, but can’t believe the story about a man who received a prophecy from extraterrestrials? After receiving a mysterious invitation from the Raelians to accept a special recognition in the arts, filmmaker Yoav Shamir starts to ask these hard questions from an atheist-perspective and with his mentor, historian of religion Professor Daniel Boyarin, he interviews “the messiah” Rael and some of his followers, from Okinawa to France.

When Claude Vorilhon first encounters a UFO in 1973, these aliens gave him the task of spreading an important message. Not much later he changed his name to Raël and established a science based religion, where love is central. Communities all over Asia, Europe and North America start to grow, and the Raelians’ “pleasure hospital” in Burkina Faso was made to restore the damage inflicted by genital mutilation. Raël’s left hand and bishop, Dr. Briggite Boisselier, explains how their religion believes humans are created from the DNA of aliens.

Director Yoav narrates part of the film, which never becomes too distracting, since he mostly puts devoted believers in front of the camera, whose stories are quite humorous (and heartfelt) at times. When we visit Elohika, a Raelian village in the area of Burkina Faso, the villagers explain how coloured ribbons show their true sexual identity. Clearly inspired by the hanky code (a traditional form of signalling others what your sexual preferences and interests are in the way of color coding, mostly used by gay men in the ’60s and ’70s), we meet several African men and women living in harmony, sexually liberated and seemingly happy. Some have escaped the huge Islamic-community they felt oppressed in. Don’t be fooled, this is not a sex cult. Raelians are all about freedom and love. Several people make this clear throughout the film, although the only people we constantly see naked on stage and fully throwing themselves at Maitreya (another name for this prophet) are women.

The constant happiness all around him, starts to annoy Yoav and this makes him dig deeper into Claude’s past, to reveal some details, although nothing’s really shocking. This is when ‘The Prophet and the Space Aliens‘ shows signs of wanting to uncover the truth behind a scam, but we never come to a satisfying conclusion. Nonetheless, the film leaves it up to the viewer what to believe and what not to, to then giving a final on-the-nose atheistic statement about religion being based on made up stories to comfort people in need of something to believe in.

The Prophet and the Space Aliens is a mostly respectful look into a new religion most of us have never heard of, shedding light on many faith-based questions we actually don’t know the answers to. They flirt with debunking a growing society based on the loyalty for one man, but never reach that level of sensationalism.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Prophet and the Space Aliens will screen as part of Doc Edge Festival on:

  • Sunday 14 June at 9pm (online)
  • Thursday 25 June at 5pm (online)

Buy tickets HERE

Doc Edge Festival Review – ‘The Prophet and the Space Aliens’

Reviewed online (screening as part of Doc Edge Festival), June 7, 2020. Running time: 96 min.

PRODUCTION: A Yoav Shamir Films, Big World Cinema, Wildar Film production. Producers: Tanya Aizikovich, Steven Markovitz, Yoav Shamir. Executive producers: Robin Smith, Neil Tabatznik.

CREW: Director/screenplay: Yoav Shamir. Camera: Tanya Aizikovich. Editors: Neta Dvorkis, Roland Stöttinger. Music: Manfred Plessl.

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