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Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies under America

by Craig Baldwin
Other Cinema, San Francisco, CA, 2006
DVD, 97 mins.
Sales, $24.95; institutional use, $100.00
ISBN: 0976523981.

Reviewed by Stefaan Van Ryssen
Hogeschool Gent


After the explosion of their planet, a small group of aliens escape in a flying saucer and make a home for themselves in the hollow Earth under the Antarctic. They lived there for about a thousand years until the USA started underground nuclear experiments. Mutating rapidly (their genitals are deformed so badly that they can only mate with snakes), they retaliate by means of brain waves and remote-controlled artificial replacements of public figures. Of course, they are met with fierce resistance as they support the so-called anti-American activities of the presidents of Guatemala, Nicaragua and Cuba. In the course of their war against America, they have used the most secret and sacred Agency in the States for their own goals. Henry Truman, Foster Dulles, Howard Hughes, Dwight Eisenhower and scores of other personalities from Twentieth Century America were in one way or the other under their influence, affected or involved in their conspiracies. And of course, they had their hand in the assassination of JFK. But no one knows how. No one but Craig Baldwin who drew from all imaginable and imaginative sources to collect evidence for the uncovering of the most threatening conspiracy ever: the Quetzal Conspiracy. The end of civilisation is neigh.

The plot of Tribulation 99 (1991), one of three movies on this DVD, reads like a cheap and awfully bad SF story. But actually, it is a documentary. Or rather, a pseudo-documentary. Or, better still, the undisguised anatomical representation of a pseudo-documentary. Baldwin doesn’t hide the tools of his craft. Everything is there: superposition of images with only the faintest resemblance to ‘prove’ connections; sequences of found footage and filmed broadcasts; a hilariously mysterious sounding voice-over; a mix of shots from fiction features (James Bond!) and televised news etc, etc. No one in her right mind would ever be in any doubt about the seriousness of this story. So this is not only a mock documentary but also a parody of how ‘honest’ documentaries can be concocted from unrelated source material. Whereas pseudo documentaries like DIAL H-I-S-T-O-R-Y by Johan Grymonprez (also on Other Cinema) leave the viewer confused, Tribulation 99 makes it clear from the start that This Is Fake. In doing so, it lays bare a wider range of phobias on the one hand and techniques of disinformation on the other. It risks being more easily dismissed as the product of somebody’s weird imagination but it uncovers more levels of manipulation. For the media savvy, T99 is a wonderful collage and an easily readable chronicle or critique of documentary making, but it makes me wonder how a regular couch potato would react.

The DVD includes two more movies by the same author: ‘Rocketkitkongokit’ about post-colonial Congo, German military rocket factories and the CIA (again) and ‘Wild Gunman’, a dense montage of cowboy iconography, advertising campaigns and pop-culture imagery within an interactive penny-arcade game.



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