I recently had the pleasure to see filmmaker Jennifer Stein's 2015 documentary Travis: The True Story of Travis Walton. The 90 minute documentary focuses on one of, if not the, biggest UFO abduction cases in history.
In 1975, Travis Walton and his logging crew saw a strange light in a quiet remote forest in Arizona. The men entered the woods to explore the source of this light, and what they saw hovering in the clearing was beyond belief. There was a blinding flash of light and the men scrambled out of the woods back to their truck, but they were one man short; Travis allegedly was struck by a blast which left him crumpled on the forest floor. The men took off into the night, only to return a short time later, knowing they had to muster the courage to find their friend. When they returned to the clearing, Travis was gone. A frenzy ensues; the men are suspected of murdering their friend, they are put through polygraph testing and were even guarded by deputies while the local authorities searched for Travis in the forest. The world paid attention to the story of the missing Travis Walton and his coworkers who are blaming his disappearance on a flying saucer. The mystery only deepens when Travis Walton appears five days later on a lonely stretch of highway, tired, hungry, dehydrated, and with very few memories of what happened to him.
The documentary begins by exploring the intricate details of the story, using original newspaper articles, television interviews and audio recordings to provide a detailed account of the events as they unfolded. The film intertwines contemporary interviews with Travis and his coworkers who were there that night, alongside some big names in Ufology, such as Richard Dolan, Stanton Friedman and Ben Hansen. The viewer is then treated to the skeptical side of the argument and what the debunkers had to say about Travis and his abduction story. What ensues is a merciless attack on the late Phillip Klass, one of the key debunkers who tried to prove that Travis was nothing more than a fraud. The film shows a clear bias and provides no opportunity for review concerning the multiple accusations made towards Klass and his fellow contemporary debunkers. The film then proceeds to provide new evidence that allegedly supports the abduction story and concludes with Travis making peace with a former coworker and himself.
The film is beautifully shot and provides breathtaking footage of Arizona's forests and landscape. While it does use the "reenactment" trope, which is very common in UFO documentaries, it does so with care and does not overburden the viewer. The vast majority of content features newspaper articles, interviews and pictures from the day; which is fascinating for a history buff like myself. The most impressive facet of the documentary, and undoubtedly the reason why I enjoyed it, was that while it provided evidence for the abduction story, its main goal was not to convince the viewer that it truly happened. Rather, it portrayed a group of men who were forever changed by their experience. It presented the psychological impact that the event had on Travis, as well as the emotional toll that all of the media attention took on him. Was Travis truly taken aboard a flying saucer? It doesn't matter. He believes he was, and the documentary focuses on that fact; the real question that the documentary tries to answer is whether or not Travis was affected dramatically by the alleged strange events that took place. In short, the answer is yes.
For anyone who is interested in this case, this documentary is essential. Does it provide conclusive evidence? No. But, it provides a thorough analysis of the emotional and psychological impact that this event had on Walton.
The documentary itself is not fancy, sleek or "shiny" in any way. It is, in a word, human. It tells a complex story that affected a group of simple men; men who were cast with their parts to play in a story they did not want to be in. That is why the story is relatable, and where the humanity of this film lies: we are all thrown into our roles without choice, and we live our complex stories totally unprepared for the events and experiences that rise before us. The viewer does not have to believe in Travis' story to see that it has affected him. What haunts Travis Walton and his friends are the stories themselves that have been built around them; the mythologies that have shaped their lives to this day. When those men entered that wooded clearing in 1975, it was not the entities that altered their lives, but the myth that arose after they walked out.
-M. J. Banias
Click here to visit the film's website.
Below is the trailer for your viewing pleasure.