Other Worlds Austin Review: Ghost Rockets

In search of UFOs and meaning

Watch the skies for Ghost Rockets, which received its Texas premiere today at Other Worlds Austin.

There's a supreme arrogance in pretending there is no life beyond Earth. But isn't it equally hubristic to think they would traverse inconceivable interstellar distances just to see us scarcely upright apes?

And yet, as Fox Mulder would say, we want to believe.

Scandinavian documentary Ghost Rockets catches that inner contradiction through the work of Clas Svahn and UFO-Sweden, a nonprofit dedicated to sorting the wheat from the chaff of airborne sightings. Only, so far, it's all been chaff. "My working day is all about misinterpretations," says one of the team, as he rattles off a list of reasoned explanations that debunk every single sighting.

Well, almost every sighting.

There's a certain charm to how Svahn's work colleagues seem to accept his obsession. In that way it's very similar to 2012's The Final Member, a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the Icelandic Phallological Museum. He is undoubtedly obsessed, but it's not the fixation of the delusional: There are people who are convinced that they saw something, and it's his accepted task to work out what it was they really saw, whether it is a toy or the moon.

And yet, and yet, there are the ghost rockets. The Spökraketer was the name given to an epidemic of over 2,000 near-identical sightings that swept across Sweden just after World War II. The successor to the foo fighters (not the band) spotted by wartime pilots, they are Svahn's best chance of finding something that's not just a dust mote.

Documentarians Michael Cavanagh and Kerstin Übelacker aren't as interested as UFO-Sweden in solving the enigma of the ghost rockets. With delicacy, and without judgment, they portray a much simpler and immediate story: a group of UFO-obsessed boys who became UFO-fascinated men, and now, after 40 years, wonder whether the club they have founded will live beyond them. Solving the ghost rocket enigma is the way to validate their decades of effort, and maybe establish a legacy. Plus, if they get to spend some time with good friends, that's all for the better.

Other Worlds Austin SciFi Film Festival runs Dec. 1-4 at Flix Brewhouse, 2200 N. I-35, Round Rock. Visit www.otherworldsaustin.com for more info.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Other Worlds Austin
Heading Down to <i>Rock Steady Row</i>
Heading Down to Rock Steady Row
Director Trevor Stevens on his post-Apocalyptic college comedy

Richard Whittaker, July 25, 2018

Getting Caught on <i>7 Splinters in Time</i>
Getting Caught on 7 Splinters in Time
Director explains mindwarping time travel flick before screening

Richard Whittaker, June 27, 2018

More sci-fi
Other Worlds Goes Into <i>The Black Hole</i>
Other Worlds Goes Into The Black Hole
Disney cult fave for SF fest, plus final lineup

Richard Whittaker, Oct. 30, 2017

Forward to the Past With <i>Future '38</i>
Forward to the Past With Future '38
Director Jamie Greenberg on his fake period piece

Richard Whittaker, May 16, 2017

More by Richard Whittaker
A voice lost, a voice remains in this biography of the Tombstone star

July 23, 2021

Dusty space colonizer drama ponders the end of two worlds

July 23, 2021


Other Worlds Austin, sci-fi, Texas Premiere, Flix Brewhouse, OWA, Ghost Rockets, Spökraketer, UFO-Sweden

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle