‘The 11th Green’ wrestles with the nature of truth, beliefs

“The 11th Green” (2020). Cast: Campbell Scott, Agnes Bruckner, George Gerdes, Leith M. Burke, Tom Stokes, April Grace, Ian Hart, Currie Graham, David Clennon, Monte Markham, Kathryn Lee Scott, Tom Connelly, Eli Cusick, Imani McNorton, Peter Tingstrom. Archive Footage: Harry S. Truman. Director: Christopher Munch. Screenplay: Christopher Munch. Web site. Trailer.

We all know the truth when we see it, don’t we? After all, it’s a fixed, finite concept that’s applicable to all of us, isn’t it? Or is it something more nebulous, a moving target that shifts over time? Moreover, is it something that compliantly falls in line with our observations and beliefs, or is it subject to manipulation as a result of the influence of outside sources? Indeed, it would seem that something many of us think of as infallibly reliable could be considerably murkier and less defined than we thought, either as a result of the shifting beliefs we hold about it or because of the controlling influences of others. And, in light of that, it would seem that the truth is something that’s subject to adjustment and alteration in any number of contexts, making our certainty about the nature of our existence and its components even more open to debate. These are among the rhetorical questions raised about the nature of “the truth” with regard to one particular milieu as depicted in the new speculative sci-fi offering, “The 11th Green.”

Since the end of World War II, the incidence of UFO sightings has increased significantly. These enigmatic lights in the sky – whatever they may be – have captivated, mystified and frightened witnesses around the globe in that time. And, even though instances of their apparent presence predate this period, the frequency with which they have occurred has ballooned since 1945. Yet, despite all of the anecdotal and circumstantial evidence of their existence reported by their observers, the officially stated policy of authorities regarding UFOs has been one of denial, that the so-called sightings of these aerial craft are nothing more than naturally occurring or manmade phenomena. So why the discrepancy? What is really going on here?

“The 11th Green” is a piece of speculative fiction that attempts to address these questions. Even though the film acknowledges that its story is not based on undisputed fact, the opening credits nevertheless state that it draws from what is believed to be the solid investigatory work of ufologists and researchers who have looked into the subject. The story, set in the recent past, seeks to go beyond the smoking gun about UFOs and present a narrative that explains their history from 1945 onward, including both the nature of this phenomenon, as well as the reasons behind the official cover-up to keep their existence secret.

The story is told from the standpoint of independent investigative journalist Jeremy Rudd (Campbell Scott), who provides science reports for an internet TV broadcast hosted by his colleague, Lila Parnell (April Grace). Jeremy presents reports on cutting-edge science topics, but he scrupulously sticks to dealing only in concrete evidence. And, even though he’s a closet believer in the UFO phenomenon, he never touches the subject for fear of the longstanding stigma about it in the journalism community. He believes that, if he were to broach the topic in his reporting, it would ruin the credibility of his broadcast and be the end of his career.

However, Jeremy’s hand is somewhat forced when he learns of the death of his father, Nelson (Monte Markham), a shadowy figure who has a long history of being involved in clandestine military projects dating back seven decades. The two have been estranged for some time, based largely on divergent political views, so Jeremy is not particularly familiar with what his dad has been up to for quite some time. In fact, given the secrecy under which his father operated, Jeremy’s not even sure what his old man did during much of his career. But, considering the vacuous gap between Jeremy’s progressive bent and Nelson’s conservative establishment views, the intrepid reporter never took the time to look into his father’s activities, partly out of disinterest and partly out of sheer loathing.

With Nelson’s passing, though, Jeremy is left to settle his father’s estate, most notably selling his dad’s home, a sprawling mid 20th Century ranch house that was once the residence of President Dwight Eisenhower (George Gerdes), with whom Nelson once worked in a covert capacity. Jeremy travels from his home in Washington to the California desert to wind up his father’s affairs with the aid of Nelson’s personal assistant, Laurie Larkspur (Agnes Bruckner). But what starts out as a seemingly straightforward estate settlement process soon takes a variety of unexpected twists and turns that are certain to drastically transform Jeremy’s career – and could help him break one of the biggest stories of all time.

To honor his father’s memory, Jeremy hosts an informal reception for Nelson’s friends, associates and cronies from a guest list drawn up by Laurie. The gathering includes a mix of former military, security and corporate types, as well as a professor and author well acquainted with the UFO community, Larry Jacobsen (Currie Graham). Larry, a longtime associate of Nelson, seems to be an insider with deep connections in government and the military-industrial complex who skillfully manages to play both sides of the fence, depending on which way the wind is blowing. That makes his credibility questionable, yet he somehow manages to come up with some remarkably stunning – and valid – revelations that keep him from being summarily dismissed. And, given his affinity for members of the Rudd family, Larry picks up with Jeremy where he left off with Nelson.

In short order, Larry introduces Jeremy to groundbreaking evidence about the official history of UFO secrecy, including apparently authentic film footage of a meeting between Eisenhower and an alien ambassador named Lars (Tom Stokes), a representative from a technologically advanced race that managed to overcome its social and political confrontations and thereby avoid its own self-destruction. In a covert summit, Lars delivered a message to Ike reminiscent of that shared by Klaatu (Michael Rennie), the enigmatic alien visitor in the 1951 screen classic “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” The meeting between Lars and Eisenhower thus led to an ongoing dialogue between aliens and humans that continued from the 1950s to the present, one in which each side maneuvered their way through a carefully coordinated arrangement involving matters of technology sharing, geopolitical evolution and meticulously managed social engineering regarding official disclosure of the extraterrestrial presence.

The leads Jeremy receives from Larry are helped along by additional contributions from Laurie. As they spend more time together, Jeremy and Laurie begin to draw closer to one another, transforming what starts out as an arm’s-length relationship into something more personal. But, despite this growing romantic attraction, there are also undeniable trust issues between them, concerns that Jeremy is wise to take seriously.

Besides the condolences offered by Nelson’s old pals, Jeremy also receives a letter of sympathy from one of his childhood friends, a character simply identified as “the President” (Leith M. Burke). While the name of this character is never revealed, the President bears a striking resemblance to a public official who grew up in Hawaii, where his younger self (Imani McNorton) attended an exclusive prep school with a younger Jeremy (Eli Cusick). The two classmates developed a close bond and remained friends, despite the distancing that occurred once the President ascended to the heights of his political power.

The rekindling of the connection between the President and Jeremy reinvigorates the former’s memories of his youth, including some involving peripheral interactions with a younger Nelson (Peter Tingstrom) and some paranormal experiences of his own. Recollections of these events from the President’s formative years helped prompt his interest in practices like meditation, a pursuit he engages in with the aid of guided visualization tapes. And those sessions enable various visionary experiences, including dialogues with past political figures, most notably Dwight Eisenhower. These meditative discussions reveal additional details about the incredible history of UFOs, the reasoning behind the policies of secrecy and denial, the hesitancy to proceed with disclosure, and the nature of relations with aliens like Lars. These sessions also include Ike’s accounts of the roles played by various high-profile officials through the years, including President Harry S. Truman, freshman Congressman John F. Kennedy (Tom Connolly) and inaugural Secretary of Defense James Forrestall (Ian Hart), whose mysterious suicide may have been even more unbelievable than most people think.

As Jeremy gradually (and independently) uncovers evidence of the events depicted in the meditative dialogues between the two Commanders in Chief, he begins to piece together a story more incredible than he ever imagined. But what can he do with this information? How is he to move forward? With a fitting musical backdrop featuring the overture from Richard Wagner’s Parsifal, an opera about the search for the Holy Grail, Jeremy, Lila and Larry struggle to figure out what to do with the much-sought-after iconic materials they’ve uncovered – provided they even get the opportunity to proceed with their plans.

Were Jeremy able to succeed in his efforts to tell this story, it would certainly change things drastically. In fact, that’s allegedly one of the reasons why the secret-keepers have kept matters so tightly under wraps – that the changes to society, culture and technology would be so great that it would significantly disrupt the status quo. As he comes to realize, those in power, those who would stand to lose so much, are capable of doing virtually anything to prevent that from happening. And that doesn’t even begin to take into account the effects of exposing the decades-old lie that has been used to preserve the secret. Perhaps most importantly, however, it would change the views of the world’s population at large, and those new beliefs could carry dramatic implications, particularly in light of the role they play in the conscious creation process, the philosophy that maintains we draw upon these metaphysical resources in shaping the reality we experience.

Should these secrets be officially revealed, an entirely new worldview – one that would be difficult to manipulate and control – would likely emerge. At present, given the wide spectrum of beliefs that different individuals hold due to a lack of a consistent definitive confirmation of the UFO phenomenon, it’s easy for those who stand to lose from disclosure to maintain the fractured public consensus, forestalling those new beliefs from taking hold and reshaping our existence. That, in turn, would thwart collective co-creative efforts to shift the nature of our reality, one that could loosen the shackles of the control mongers and potentially employ the marvels of the alien visitors to re-create a vastly improved world, perhaps even an earthly paradise, one in which the clandestinely powerful no longer hold sway over the rest of humanity.

In light of that, it’s important to those who wish to stay in charge to control the message, to convince the rest of us to believe what they want us to believe, as a means of manifesting the reality that serves their needs (i.e., those in government, the military and the corporate world, the ones most likely to benefit from and cash in on this secret knowledge). If we ever hope for circumstances to change, however, we must realize this and subsequently take charge over our beliefs. We must give ourselves permission to decide for ourselves to hold fast to the beliefs that we know in our hearts are indeed true. In short, we must thus assume control of the core beliefs of our inner being, our authentic selves. In essence, to that end, to paraphrase an old adage about a common form of water fowl, if we have an experience in which we witness something that looks like a UFO and flies like a UFO, then it’s probably a UFO. Case closed.

Such measures are inherently crucial in the push for official disclosure. Through a successful co-creative undertaking on our part, that outcome could well result. But, in the process of doing this, we must carefully consider what “the truth” gets us in the end and whether we’re ready for it. We must be cautious about blindly engaging in the practice of un-conscious creation, wherein we seek our desired outcome at any cost without consideration for the consequences. For example, if we were to achieve success in securing an official confirmation of the alien presence, we must be prepared for everything that accompanies such a revelation. So what if we subsequently learn that officialdom has been keeping a lid on this secret to prevent the unleashing of detrimental forces, like extraterrestrials who have come here to harvest us as their next meal, an outcome they have been keeping at bay by keeping their efforts to combat the voracious visitors under cover? Would we really be ready for that just to have our curiosity satisfied?

Thus, in collectively seeking “the truth,” we must not only look to attain the answers we seek, but also the attendant consequences that come with it. And, to that end, we should make the effort to include that second consideration in the formation of the beliefs we employ in our co-creative undertakings. It won’t do us any good to uncover the secret if it leads to our ultimate demise; the concept of Pandora’s Box clearly comes to mind here. Given that, then, we should proceed cautiously and methodically, as Jeremy does, in seeking to discover the truth. We would be wise, for instance, to devise a scenario in which the revelation of the truth results in a friendship with Lars rather than a confrontation with the visitors from “War of the Worlds” (1953, 2005), “Independence Day” (1996) or the movies in the “Alien” franchise.

In the end, however, this enigmatic sci-fi tale, which fuses elements of “The X-Files” and a variety of other movies and television shows, is a bona fide cinematic conundrum, one that probably requires viewing with an enormous grain of salt. To be honest, director Christopher Munch’s latest has more than its share of shortcomings, including pacing issues, excessive talkiness, considerable (and I do mean considerable) extraneous and easily edited material, a needlessly convoluted screenplay, and yet another uninspired monotone performance by Campbell Scott. Nevertheless, to its credit, the film also presents one of the best, most thorough and most comprehensive treatments of the dark history of UFOs, the cover-up to conceal the many secrets associated with this phenomenon, and how all this has affected both the movement for disclosure and many aspects of everyday life and culture. The speculative yet insightful and enlightening approach used in addressing this subject helps to make up for the picture’s other failings, though it’s unfortunate that the other aspects of the film don’t match up with this admirable and informative strength. Those who readily dismiss “conspiracy theories” are likely to easily laugh this one off, but those who sincerely take a broader, more open-minded view of things will find this an inspiring take on a subject that could hold tremendous promise and potential for our future. The film is currently available for first-run online streaming.

Because truth and beliefs would appear to be more relative than most of us tend to think, it’s important that we recognize that as such, for that kind of variability can have far-reaching ramifications, even affecting the very nature of the existence we experience, both overall and in its myriad facets. Given that, it’s incumbent upon us, then, to make sure we’re clear about their nature, especially in jointly created ventures, to come up with the desired results. Indeed, as avid golfers (like President Eisenhower) well know, ending up on the green is what every linksman hopes for, especially in light of the alternative – getting stuck in the rough.

Copyright © 2020, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

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