Tribeca 2024 Review: THEY'RE HERE, Uneven Discovery of Phenomena

Directed by Pacho Velez and Daniel Claridge, the documentary is not a typical science nonfiction film.

Contributing Writer
Tribeca 2024 Review: THEY'RE HERE, Uneven Discovery of Phenomena

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No. For a few (upstate) New Yorkers, they witnessed a UFO in the sky and can attest that They're Here (2024), thus the documentary's title from co-directors Daniel Claridge and Pacho Velez.

This isn't your typical science nonfiction film, filled with well-versed experts explaining the validity of scientific anomalies, but rather how a strange encounter reshapes the denizens' outlook. They're fixated on how the world is not all one-dimensional (literally).

Homemaker Cookie Stringfellow, machine shop worker Steve Falcone, gas station employee Dave Rivera, and comedian Twon Wood are the primary UFO believers the audience observes in this ensemble piece. Stringfellow is a member of an Irondequoit UFO meetup group and cares for the well-being of her friends. Rivera hopes to find answers when he travels to an upstate UFO fair and cooperates with a UFO investigator. Falcone built a board game on UFOs and is stuck with his 32-year-long occupation, where he can't ensure longevity after retirement and looks for relaxation. Wood uses his fondness and momentous sightseeing of UFOs in his standup set, and patrons respond to him in silence.

Velez, who has done several co-directed features, such as The American Sector (2019) and The Reagan Show (2017), knows how to use a topic, such as finding love in Searchers (2022) and placing a Berlin Wall's piece origins in The American Sector to ground the human connection. While he successfully used these topics as a launch pad for finding similar associations between many facets of life, he and Claridge are uneven with this here.

Given that they're working on a massively covered subject matter that many are informed by the works rather than the scientific accuracy, it is difficult to swoon one's knowledge. While it is adventurous in its (assumed) hybridization of some scenes that elicit the protagonists' revelations, the film loses touch with itself through its use of music. Its soundtrack struggles to maintain a mundane feel to the film's texture as it deviates from the more fearful scores, like Nope (2022).

Claridge and Velez balance diegetic sounds and audio instrumentals in their collaborative sound design to show people's curiosity about precarity. However, the balance doesn't stay on course with the internal transportation towards witnessing different ways of life.

For example, a performer sings a song with a piano and drummer at the fair, and its audible lyrics glue the core's presence. While it had great rationales for the narrative's arc after several characters were doing their investigations essentially themselves, it pulverizes the thrills of the journey, as the tracks do not amplify Earth's (meta)physicality and heighten the believer's arguments.

Though it fails to exceed some expectations, it is a frivolous snapshot of what makes people bond together. Whether a case has concrete evidence, the directors show that verisimilitude flows like a river and doesn't permanently land after its specific destination. Stringfellow, who recalled being abducted 14 times, tells the naysayers that "it doesn't matter if you don't believe--I accept that," and only one interaction will alter your mind.

The film enjoys its world premiere at the 2024 Tribeca Festival. It screens again on Saturday, June 15.

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Daniel ClaridgePacho VelezTribeca 2024Tribeca Festival

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