While browsing Real Ufos (“Amazing! – the Best Real UFO videos & news posted from around the world”) yesterday, I came across what promises to be a huge story, if true: New Mayan film claims proof of aliens with government support? It’s a difficult phrase to parse, unfortunately. Is it a “Mayan film” (i.e. one made by Maya people) or a film dealing with the Maya? Are the aliens being supported by the government, or is the proof something that derives from government sources? I suspect the latter options in both cases.
The editor of Real Ufos has the grace to make it a question and the first sentence of the post reads “Is this all Public relations hype or can the movie makers back up their claims?”. Indeed. It’s clear that the editor (who posts weekly updates about the execrable Ancient Aliens series with a much less sceptical tone) has doubts about the item. It’s claimed to come from “a Mexican government official and the film’s producer”. The film in question, which is apparently currently in production, will be called Revelations of the Mayans 2012 and beyond. Unfortunately, the links on Real Ufos don’t work, but it’s easy to search for the film on Google, with about 21,700 results on 1 October 2011.
It turns out that the original press release was published by Reuters and its partner The Wrap on 17 August, although almost nobody seems to have paid it much attention. Undeterred, the film makers issued an updated press release on 26 September, and it is this one that has garnered the most attention. According to the original release, the film will disclose “state-held secrets… protected for 80 years” about Maya predictions of future disasters. It includes statements by Luis Augusto Garcia Rosado, currently Secretario de Turismo (Secretary of Tourism) in the state government of Campeche, who apparently “was quoted in a press release talking about contact between the Mayans and extraterrestrials. That statement has been recalled, and Rosado now paints this as a simpler, more archaeological-oriented documentary”.
So, is the film really going to reveal anything about ancient aliens? According to one of the producers, Raul Julia-Levy, “I’m not allowed to speak about that. Everything is going to come out in time, but I can’t comment on aliens or on 2012. I can just say that the Mexican government is preparing to tell humanity and the world things that are critical for us, for the way we live, for the way we’ve been handling the planet”. Still no aliens.
By 26 September, though, Luis Augusto Garcia Rosado was saying that new evidence has emerged “of contact between the Mayans and extraterrestrials, supported by translations of certain codices, which the government has kept secure in underground vaults for some time…” and mentioned “landing pads in the jungle that are 3,000 years old”. Are those involved in the film allowed to talk or not?
The updated version of the press release also quotes Guillermo Novielli Quezada, said to be the Guatemalan Minister of Tourism who, curiously, isn’t mentioned anywhere on the Guatemalan government’s own website. Hmm… Perhaps Google will enlighten us. Of 1010 hits on 1 October, the first takes us to a deleted Wikipedia page, while all the others take us to versions of the 26 September press release, mostly cut-and-pasted in typical churnalist fashion, even in supposedly respectable news sources (such as The Guardian of 29 September 2011). Guillermo Novielli is a real person, though; he replaced the previous “Minister” of Tourism (actually the Director of Instituto Guatemalteco de Turismo, the Guatemalan Institute of Tourism (Inguat)) Dr Jorge Federico Samayoa Prado in July 2011.
One archaeological site that is to feature in the film is Calakmul, in the Petén Basin area of… Campeche State. Wait, isn’t that where the Tourism Minister works? And rather than a government secret, kept hidden from the rest of us for eighty years, Calakmul has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2002. The city is known to have been founded toward the end of the Middle Pre-Classic Period (c 900-300 BCE) and developed into an important centre similar in status to the better known sites at Tikal or Palenque.
According to the first press release, “the filmmakers are talking to investors and waiting for the government to give them their first look at the material and the site”. So they haven’t even seen the site yet. The discovery of “rooms inside the pyramid that have never been seen or explored before” was apparently made by staff of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (National Institute of Anthropology and History), and although no mention of work at Calakmul appears on its website, it’s entirely conceivable that this is a genuine discovery.
The film is being produced by Raul Julia-Levy, Ed Elbert and Sheila M McCarthy, with Eduardo Vertiz as executive producer. Its director is Juan Carlos Rulfo. None of them is particularly known for documentary work, although it is evident that Sheila McCarthy has an interest in UFOs. That doesn’t disqualify them from making a documentary film, of course.
The question that has to be asked is why this information, supposedly “very important for humanity, not just for Mexico”, is being released through the medium of film. Pitching extraordinary claims straight to the media is often an indication of pseudoscience in action: there is no peer review, no critique of the interpretations on offer, no rival viewpoint. That is what worries me.
Coming from a completely different perspective, UFOHunterVlog has a rather foul-mouthed bilingual rant about the fact that it’s not being released as a news item, but as a documentary film (I like the way that certain English profanities seem to turn up in the Spanish version: what a wonderful cultural export!). But he has a point. If this material is genuine, then why is it first being promoted through cinemas?
And, even if the whole alien angle turns out to be a false lead, what are we to make of Raul Julia-Levy’s claim that he has proof that the Maya wanted to lead the planet for thousands of years? How could a society consisting of warring city states, which rarely achieved any kind of political unity over large areas, lead the planet? Did they even conceive of a world extending beyond Mesoamerica? And what of their escape from “men of dark intentions”? There are still Maya people in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, some of whom continue to fight the governments of these nations, refusing to submit to the European invaders of five centuries ago.
And the 2012 connection? The film makers say that they want their documentary to be released before 21 December 2012, the end of a Long Count Cycle. It’s a cynical ploy to engage with the conspiracy theorists who are deluded that the world will come to an end on that day.
Once again, we have over-hyped press releases, claims, counter claims and retractions. Is this really going to be a documentary, or it is hype for a forthcoming work of fiction? It wouldn’t be the first time that a “documentary” has turned out to be something quite different.