EXCLUSIVE: Acclaimed director Uga Carlini on the bittersweet development of Beyond The Light Barrier
It is arguably more difficult for a documentary to deliver a narrative gut punch than a fictional movie, but Uga Carlini has managed that with new documentary, Beyond the Light Barrier.
Carlini's new movie focuses on the life of renowned meteorologist Elizabeth Klarer, who hit headlines around the world in the 1970s when she revealed that she had a romance with and been impregnated by an alien being known as Akon, who took her on his spaceship to his home planet.
The scepticism was abundant, but due to Klarer's status as an acclaimed academic and scholar, there were some people back then and some to this day who believed her claims.
The documentary leads the viewer into a false sense of security, as until the last 10 minutes, we see Elizabeth as a heroic figure, doing her best to promote environmentalism, albeit through bonkers means.
Then, there is a revelation about who she really was as a person, and it completely changes the entire narrative of what came before.
MovieMeter sat down with Uga Carlini for an exclusive interview to discuss Beyond The Light Barrier, which is narrated by acclaimed South African actor John Kani.
Uga Carlini interview
MovieMeter: Could you give us a little bit of background on who Elizabeth Klarer was for those who aren't familiar with her story?
Uga Carlini: You have to see this in the context of the time. It's in the 50s in South Africa. Our past, our history. Women in general, we couldn't vote, now we're voting.
Apartheid South Africa was a hectic place, not just because of the obvious reasons. It was strictly Christian and divorce wasn't seen as a way you get to heaven. Here we have a woman, in the 50s, who has already been divorced twice. This is an affluent, intelligent woman who went to Cambridge (allegedly) and came back a meteorologist. She said she flew planes and did spy work for the British government during World War II. It's like 'woah'.
Fast forward to the 70s, we had 'love not war' and all that. She decided then was the time to tell her story. She had all this scientific knowledge that she wanted to share that would help with all our current environmental problems.
That was legit, the scientific knowledge was legit. And, at the time was weird for a human being to know. God forbid, a woman.
She got flown to meetings with some of the greatest minds in the world, to the UN headquarters to the House of Lords. She was quizzed, mainly by men about the 'How? Where? Why? ' of her findings.
And, every time, the thing that ruined it for so many people was when they asked 'But HOW do you know this?'
And she would respond "Because my boyfriend, who is a scientist, took me to his spaceship and his planet and told me'.
And if they didn't like that, it was their problem. And, that did prove a problem for many of those people...She also threw a baby in there. She said they had mad, passionate sex and she had his baby. It was very romanticised.
MovieMeter: Do you believe her status as an academic led to more people believing her?
Uga Carlini: Absolutely, or at least giving her the time of day. Even today, if you look at conspiracy theories. It is very seldom that we have mainstream people speaking out.
If you dig deep, this is a very complicated world where a lot of people have been silenced.
Elizabeth was not only an academic, but also posh. She was almost Marilyn Monroe-like. The voice, the beehive (hairdo)
Elizabeth, in the movie, is an old lady. But the Elizabeth who ruled the world was a babe, a genius. She played the part with academia and authority behind her, at the same time behaving as she did to get the attention of men.
South African Elizabeth Klarer, a meteorologist, claims to have encountered an alien. She is said to have been taken in Akon's spaceship to Meton, a planet of the star Proxima Centuari. There she lived with Akon's family for four months and gave birth to his son. When Elizabeth was back on Earth, she tried to inform people of very detailed technical information about, among other things, the operation of the light propulsion system in the spaceship. This documentary reveals whether Elizabeth's knowledge is mostly science or fiction.
Directed by: Uga Carlini
MovieMeter: Your previous movies like Alison and Angeliena have undoubtedly heroic female leads, while Elizabeth Klarer is a darker subject. Did you intentionally seek that out?
Uga Carlini: No, I didn't. A good analogy, by the way. I was a little girl of eight when I read Beyond the Light Barrier for the first time. Fast forward to 2010 and I'm in a complete honeymoon phase.
There was this picture-perfect woman, who had this perfect experience. This cool guy who took her on his spaceship. What a story! I had some time for Akon, previously, I don't anymore!
Then, when I started digging I thought, 'oh dear, oh dear. Are we going to go with the environmental angle now?'
To me, this is still an environmental film. She just chose one hell of an angle to get everyone's attention. That part - I'm aligned with.
The more I found out about this woman, it went from a honeymoon phase to a nightmare. It was the closest I had ever come to giving up a movie - and I don't give up.
When I discovered the part that John Kani (narrator) found out I was like 'I can't actually deal with this'.
I decided we have to unpack this with the right person leading it, of course, John Kani, with his wisdom. And I was so sh*t scared he was going to say no because it's so controversial. I had always wanted to work with him and he was nearly in Angeleina before Covid hit.
MovieMeter: There is a gut-punch revelation about Elizabeth at the very end of the film. Without giving too much away, can you explain why the revelation was put in so late?
Uga Carlini: What I'm really doing with this movie is taking you on my journey.
I had a screening and I invited friends, family, as well as people off the street. As soon as the revelation came, everyone went 'NO, CAN't DEAL' and so I recut the whole film.
From the screening to the version now, the order completely changed. I've been criticised for even putting it into the film, you know? We have to deal with this, we can't keep putting things under the carpet.
Even up there, allegedly, in bloody space, people seem to be bloody racist.