John Was Trying To Contact Aliens, a heartwarming, hypnotic short film chronicling one man’s search beyond the Earth, is on Netflix now.
For 30 years, John Shepherd has been trying find extraterrestrials. What began as a humble solo venture in his grandparents’ Michigan cottage became a life of innovation, stargazing and impenetrable hope. ‘You search, and you continue searching, because of your desire, because you know there’s something there,’ he says.
His affection for the unknown resonated with director Matthew Killip, who’s managed to compress a decades-long mission into a 16-minute love letter to otherness and the comfort of the cosmos in a lonely world.
Check out the trailer for John Was Trying To Contact Aliens below:
John’s alien-tracking evolution is a small wonder – from building small yet brilliant machines, he goes on to assemble a beeping, booping jungle of communications equipment; his very own Area 51 for a mind in ‘other realms’.
In archive footage, woven seamlessly with present-day interviews, John’s immovable passion seeps into his family’s living room space – yet, they’re entirely unfazed, relaxing and knitting with nary a frown. Just as age is but a number, ‘normal’ is but a word.
Killip explained to The Guardian that ‘if you make a film about someone trying to contact aliens, there’s an in-built narrative problem, which is that they don’t contact aliens’. However, he quickly discovered something far more universal and ‘deeply romantic’ about his quest.
While dealing with subject matter rife with facetious glimpses and humour, John Was Trying To Contact Aliens strikes an evocative vibe: earnest, transfixing, its tone not only relishing oddness, but honouring it.
Even the soft-laden playlist underscoring it all is a delight, assembled of soothing synthwave, old-age arcade soundscapes and even Afro pop (all of which featured in John’s curated music for the beings above).
While ostensibly an alien documentary, Killip’s film is more spiritually inclined with the beauty of life, love and existence on the ground.
‘To find someone that’s on the wavelength that I am on, and be able to share my life with that person in any degree or way, is nearly impossible… although I believe it exists. I believe for everyone, there is someone,’ John says. ‘Whether on Earth or through outer space, one can connect meaningfully in one’s life.’
John also notes that his search has yielded ‘little hard data’ of much use. Yet, the joy isn’t necessarily in the discovery. ‘It gave it something, meaning,’ he says – isn’t that all we can hope for?
John Was Trying To Contact Aliens is available to stream on Netflix now.
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