by Nicholas Jackson

As we welcomed the Space Brothers, we also said goodbye to the special events portion of the Athens International Film and Video Festival. Last night, Ohio University alum and filmmaker Jodi Wille presided over the program, “Welcome Space Brothers! The Films of the Unarius Academy of Space with Jodi Wille.” The presentation kicked off with Wille’s 2016 short documentary We Are Not Alone, which followed with a “mixtape” of short Unarium films, curated by spiritual follower Kevin Kennedy. Kennedy and his wife then answered a few questions from the audience before screening the 1980 feature The Arrival.

The Unarians preach a “science of life” philosophy that they have channeled across the waves of public broadcasting for the past four decades. They call their films psycho-dramas and the concept is that they function as past life therapies. Evoking the practice of reincarnation, the mostly-improvised storylines are reenactments of tales from members’ past lives. “It’s about finding yourself - what makes you tick, where you can improve,” Kennedy advocates. “It’s an insane amount of healing.” 

Wille’s work often takes her into contact with America’s subcultures. During the Q and A session, she made sure to reiterate the differences between her experiences and those of popular opinion. She notes that corporate media is often quick to brand these alternative spiritual groups as cults, but scholars usually refer to them as “cultural reform movements.” Charles Manson and the events at Waco are the exceptions, not the norm. 

Today is the last day of the festival at the Athena and it will cap off with a “Best of the Fest” program at 7:30 tonight. Submissions for next year’s festival open around July.