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Review and an interview with the director

 

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Director's statement

As an overprotected suburban child my evenings in the 1980s were devoted to television and the reassuring Reagen-esque portrait of life it provided. In the laugh tracked sitcoms of the era I found comfort in the bland domestic rhythms of the Huxtables and the Keatons and a sense of the continuity of history from the Bradys and Kramdens, those slightly faded avatars of sitcoms past. But on occasion I would bore of my old friends and find myself turning the dial to the wild side of the UHF spectrum, the home of cable access television, where the 'other half' paraded, enacting their own skewed pageants away from the glamorous spotlights of prime time. This was another America, seemingly as far removed from the Huxtables as Earth from Venus, and this was where I first saw Archangel Uriel.

Uriel and her Unarius Academy of Science were minor San Diego celebrities, their films and presentations constantly broadcast on public access, the Space Cadillac a recurring presence in various parades, their yearly Conclave of Light a boon to the spectacle starved local media. To me and most everyone else they were a joke, a welcome blast of harmless lunacy from the fringes, a reaction that seemed to bother the Unarians not one bit. They talked of Space Brothers and past lives and we sniggered smugly. After the charismatic Uriel died a tawdry 'expose' sourced from a bitter former student dealt a minor blow to this uneasy love affair, then the suicides of the nearby Heaven's Gate cult seemed to dampen everyone's enthusiasm for other worlds and lives. Unarius quietly withdrew from the spotlight. 

When I began making films it seemed natural to track down these lost specters from my youth, for as reporters around the world had already discovered Unarians love a camera. I found them immediately approachable, very kind, and not at all the lunatics some would make them out to be. However, it was hard to break the habits ingrained from the years of media attention and when the cameras rolled the students brought out the same canned presentations they had been trotting out for decades to bemused but usually uninvolved observers. Then, as I listened, questioned and gently interrogated the barriers began to fall and they opened up in ways I had not anticipated. To my great surprise I discovered in the world of Unarius a veritable zoo of my favorite hobby horses: the permeable boundaries between reality and fantasy, the power of film to create and shape those fantasies, the do it yourself ethos of art production, the power of self-reinvention through community. Unhappy with the world in which they had been born the students of Unarius simply created their own, complete with an ever evolving cosmology and history that read like a greatest hits collection of 20th century alternative thought. Yes, there was a delirious absurdity to the whole enterprise and more than a little humor, but their sincerity and enthusiasm were undeniable. I realized that any film about them must pay respect to that and so I set out to treat them with the same mixture of deference, skepticism and wry humor I'd give to any system that claims to have comprehensive answers to the enigma of our existence. What matters finally is that these are people trying to work through life in their own unique way and for them it seems to work. This is their reality, not mine. My take on their beliefs may be obvious to anyone who watches Children of the Stars, but I hope it doesn't get in the way of these people's remarkable stories. 

Am I, as they have suggested, a Unarian? By making this film am I attempting to right the wrongs done to them in past lives over the course of millions of years? I don't think so, but who knows? We've all been wrong before.

Director's bio

Bill Perrine is a director, editor, cinematographer and writer based in San Diego, California, of which he is a proud native. Bill’s recent projects include producing and directing “Children of the Stars”, a documentary about a flying saucer group’s attempts to relive its past lives by making science fiction films; filming and editing Ibhayi Media’s “Suds County USA”, a documentary about the history and culture of craft beer brewing in San Diego, current “Beer Capital of the World”; editing Lethal Sounds’ “Hillsville 1912”, about a blood feud in turn of the century Appalachia which culminated in a massive courthouse gun battle and front page coverage in the New York Times; serving as Producer for Garnell Fitz-Henley’s directorial feature debut “Bliss”, in which a struggling artist and a volatile flamenco dancer discover that their last chance at a future together hinges on the fate of a soon to be demolished Craftsman cottage; and filming “Gustavo Romero: Portrait in Piano” for director Jonathan Bewley.

Bill has worked extensively with the Media Arts Center San Diego, a non-profit that brings multimedia arts access to the community, for whom he has directed, produced, edited and filmed over fifteen short documentaries. A former art dealer, Bill is an expert on early California painting and the San Diego Mid-Century Moderns. He is on the advisory board of the Snapshots Music and Arts Foundation as well as the board of the La Jolla Cultural Society.