I’m not sure how to describe this documentary. I almost didn’t make it passed the first 5 minutes because I didn’t want to spend a sizable chunk of my afternoon in the company of people that had views that defied all logic and were so much the opposite of my own (and frankly that of most of the population).
At first I thought it might have been a mockumentary. You know … like This Is Spinal Tap. But as it went on I realised that it was indeed real. I don’t think it was a propaganda film in the sense that it was made by the community that it was profiling. Surely not you’d think after watching it. I am sure that the individuals that featured were simply espousing their views to independent filmmakers who I am absolutely certain didn’t believe them. One thing’s for sure. The strangeness was turned up all the way to 11!
But on with the show ….
In case you are unaware Behind The Curve follows members of a group of community that believe the earth is not a globe as we have been told for hundreds of years but is, in fact, flat.
Yes flat earthers. Yes they do exist. Yes they believe absolutely. Yes some have normal jobs and look like normal people. We seem them attend meetups, attempt to perform experiments to confirm their theories and even stage the first flat earth world conference. Quite a popular event we are informed. We hear their thoughts and ideas on why they believe what they do and even see a pair of them visit the Nasa Space Centre where they mock the facility and act quite disrespectfully in my opinion.
We also hear from the scientific community who are surprisingly non judgemental. Yes – they firmly believe that the flat earthers are wrong in their convictions but the astrophysicist, science teacher, astronaut and others don’t take the easy route of calling their opponents crazy (which I am pretty sure many of those watching are). They didn’t want to label the flat earthers as uneducated or unintelligent or treat them with shame which would marginalise and isolate them. They wanted to engage which I thought was interesting. That’s not to say there are not more militant anti flat earth views among the scientific community – they were just not present in this film.
But who are the people that believe this outlandish idea?
It seems that some (not all it must be said) of those who are part of the flat earth community that took part in the documentary are estranged from their families or struggle to maintain relationships. One woman lost two boyfriends when she revealed her beliefs, one chap was finalising a divorce and no longer spoke to his siblings, parents or children although it’s not made clear if his flat earth ideas were the cause. Another man admitted that his former wife and kids thought he was mad. It was almost as if mainstream society was the much harsher judge of the community than the scientific one. The isolation was coming not from science (at least not as portrayed in this film) but much closer to home – from family.
What I found fascinating and more than a little ironic was that a community that is grounded in a conspiracy theory which underpins their beliefs – that the world’s population has been lied to for hundreds of years regarding the shape of the earth – is in fact itself wracked with conspiracy theories about members. Factions exist that accuse each other of being agents for various government organisations or who are actors that are being paid by members of Warner Bros to infiltrate the community. Yes – you read that right. The funny thing is that all of that gets laughed off as bunkum and silly nonsense by people who think that we live under a giant dome and that eclipses are nothing but Hollywood special effects (hence Warner Bros), but that is acceptable and totally rational to them. For a brief second one of the main players in this documentary sees the irony in that situation but quickly moves on because it cuts too close to the reality that is plain to most viewers and I strongly suspect the films makers also.
Note: That same person also believes that no planes flew into any buildings during the 9/11 events.
This is something that is commented on by a non-believer. The fact that flat earthers often believe in multiple conspiracy theories because they need to reshape reality in order for their main belief to continue to be their truth. They also distrust government and authority of any kind. And in their case Government extends to organizations like NASA, who are, of course, a main player in the giant fraud that is a round earth.
The main protagonist of the film is a man called Mark Sargent who seemed to revel in the feeling of importance, reverence and worth that being a leading figure in the movement has brought him. He frequently points out that he is recognised by lots of people wherever he goes, although that might also be due to the fact that he wears a t-shirt that says in big letters ‘I AM MARK SARGENT’. But honestly how much of what he says actually happened is open for debate. He is also caught out in a moment by the filmmakers when they rightly argue that he represents perfectly a personality type that he is disparaging. Our Mark goes somewhat quiet and avoids addressing the comparison. But of one thing I am absolutely sure and that is this. If he woke up one morning and was given absolute proof that he was wrong (which of course already exists) he would never acknowledge it because that would the ruination of the world he has created for himself and his elevated position within it, as well as being a huge blow to his view of himself.
Other very interesting moments come when two experiments performed by the flat earthers to prove themselves right actually went against them. The results were not what they were hoping for or expecting. Their answer to this? Keep repeating the experiments with alterations to the conditions until they get the result that they want.
To be honest I really don’t know what to make of it all. I started out thinking that they were all mad as hatters but by the end I felt very sorry for them – the flat earthers. Why? I am no psychologist but I think they are missing some element in their lives that gives it meaning and fulfilment. Whatever that elusive thing is they seem to have found it in this community. Belonging? Belief? Family? Purpose? Safe haven? Anyone’s guess is as good as mine.
Whether you believe or not, this is an interesting look at a community that exists and is out there. You have to persist with it but once you have gotten past the initial cringe factor it’s a solid watch.
Rating: 3 Stars
Watched: 25 August 2019.
(Header Image: Skitterphoto)