Six Days In Roswell

Six Days In Roswell (1999)
Synapse Films
Cast: Rende Coward, Rich Kronfeld
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Deleted Scenes, Early Works by Filmmakers, Photo Gallery and more

Up until now, the rules have been simple. A documentary is a film that documents an actual event, person, etc. A mockumentary is a film that imitates the style of a documentary, while telling the story of a fictional person or event. (It should be said that some mockumentaries are more believable than some documentaries!) But, what about a film that blurs those lines? "Six Days in Roswell" melds the documentary and the mockumentary in a unique fashion, creating an unusual hybrid. No matter what label applied to "Six Days in Roswell", the movie is fun and entertaining, but it may end up alienating its target audience.

"Six Days in Roswell" concerns one man’s pilgrimage to the famed city in New Mexico. Rich Kronfeld is a lonely, science-fiction fan/audio-video equipment collector who lives with his mom in Minnesota. Rich’s dream is to visit Roswell, New Mexico, where, according to the legend, a UFO crashed in 1947. This crash was supposedly covered up by the government, but many people believe that Roswell is the sight of first contact. Rich plans to visit Roswell during the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the crash, during the summer of 1997. So, Rich gets on a (revamped school) bus and heads for Roswell. Once he arrives, he spends six days (naturally) going to as many events as he can and interviewing everyone who will talk to him. While it appears that Rich is merely attending these events and talking to these people for the documentary, he is actually gaining data. Rick is learning as much as he can, so that he can be abducted by aliens.

As I mentioned in the introduction, "Six Days in Roswell" blurs the line between fantasy and reality. Rich Kronfeld is a real person who lives in Minnesota. But, he’s an actor, not a factory worker, as in the film, and he doesn’t live with his mother (who’s played by an actress in the movie). Rich really is a sci-fi buff and can be seen in the film "Trekkies" ("Six Days in Roswell" was directed by the cameraman on "Trekkies" and produced by the director of "Trekkies"), sporting his Captain Pike life-support chair from "Star Trek" (which also appears in "Six Days in Roswell" in one hilarious scene). There really was a celebration in Roswell in 1997, in which Rich and the camera crew documented as many events as possible. Actually, most everything photographed in Roswell is genuine. The only chicanery displayed in Roswell is the camper that Rich is forced to live in for the six days. This leads to some funny sight gags, but he didn’t really stay there (although some of the crew did).

So what if the real is real or not, is it any good? Yes, it is. "Six Days in Roswell" is very funny and gives an eye-opening look at the UFO-crazed culture in America. Rich visits some truly bizarre places in Roswell, and meets some very strange people, most of whom are very sincere about their beliefs. The highlights of the film are things like, Rich entering a UFO-sized pancake eating contest, or Rich getting a UFO haircut. But, the belief system of the viewer may play a big part in how much enjoyment they get from the film. The box states that "Six Days in Roswell" will appeal to fans of "The X-Files" and "Roswell", and this is true in the since that they all deal with UFOs and science-fiction. But, for those who are hardcore believers in UFO and alien contact, there is a chance that they may be offended by the film. "Six Days in Roswell" doesn’t go out of its way to make the believers in the film seem funny or bizarre, they just are. It seems that the more people Rich meets, the funnier they get. Keeping true to its documentary roots, "Six Days in Roswell" casts an unobjective eye on the participants of th celebration and the residents of Roswell, but some of them just come off looking like kooks. The film does feature some well-known authorities, such as author Whitley Streiber, which lends an air of credibility of the narrative, but its the strange shenanigans of the believers that makes "Six Days in Roswell" worth watching.

"Six Days in Roswell" comes to DVD from Synapse Films and contains an audio-video package which is out of this world. The film is presented full-frame. The digital transfer has rendered the picture crisp and very sharp, with just a subtle hint of grain at times. The image features very true fleshtones and very nice colors, which is a good thing, considering all of the alien green and metallic sliver in the film. The image shows no distortion from artifacting or compression problems. Considering the low-budget beginnings of the film, this transfer makes it look fantastic.

The audio on the "Six Days in Roswell" is a Dolby 2-channel surround mix. This soundtrack features very clear and audible dialogue, which is very important, so that you can hear lines like, "It was 114 degrees today. Maybe I shouldn’t have worn corduroy." There is a nice use of surround sound with musical cues and some ambient sound effects. For a documentary, "Six Days in Roswell" has an impressive audio mix and features a nice soundfield.

The "Six Days in Roswell" DVD comes complete with a galaxy full of extras. We start with the <$commentary,audio commentary> featuring director Timothy Johnson, star Rick Kronfeld, and producer Roger Nygard. This is a very fun and informative commentary, as the trio constantly picks on one another while discussing the specifics of the film. It is here where we learn the fiction behind the truth about Rich’s life and about the timeline for making the film. The commentary modulates between humorous anecdotes and insightful technical information (as Johnson has been a cameraman in the past). While I would typically cringe at the thought of an <$commentary,audio commentary> for a documentary, the commentary on "Six Days in Roswell" is a winner.

Continuing the inside look at the film, we have "An Experiment in the Desert: The Making of ’Six Days in Roswell’". This 19-minute featurette offers interviews with the cast (Kronfeld) and the crew. It gives background histories on the filmmakers, showing some of their early work, and details about how "Six Days in Roswell" came together. There is also a section on the DVD which features more early works from the films three main contributors, Kronfeld, Johnson, and Nygard. Kronfeld’s section features a compilation of scenes from his other works, as does Johnson’s. We are also treated to "Victory for the Frog", a (very) early film by Johnson which features a frog fighting some Star Wars action figures. (Ironically, it was better than "Phantom Menace".) Roger Nygard’s early works features clips from his short films "Suckers", "Warped", "The Chase" and "The Practical Joker’s Last Joke".

The DVD also features the more standard special feature fare. There are two trailers for "Six Days in Roswell", both of which are <$PS,letterboxed> at approximately 1.70:1. Note that in the shorter trailer, the title of the film is "Six Days in Days". (?!) There is also a home video trailer for "Trekkies", where get a glimpse of Kronfeld. The DVD contains eight deleted scenes, most of which are brief and wouldn’t have added much to the film. The footage that I want to see more of is the guy who attacks Rich with the punching alien puppet. Now that’s good stuff! Rounding out the special features, we have a photo gallery, which contains 15 stills, production notes, cast & crew bios, UFO facts & trivia, and (in a unique move) blurbs about the film from critics.

"Six Days in Roswell" may be a film that’s difficult to categorize, but it’s certainly entertaining. While at first glance, the movie might just be about a guy who wanders around Roswell, New Mexico constantly eating and trying on new sunglasses, but it’s a whole lot more. It’s a sly look at a sub-culture that many people know nothing about. The Synapse Films DVD presentation of "Six Days in Roswell" brings us a nice audio/video presentation, accompanied by a (space)ship load of extras. Now, if Synapse could only release a version that doesn’t contain the shot of the hair on Kronfeld’s lower back. Talk about alien beings!