By Will Barber Taylor
Science fiction films in the past were often seen as less than worthy of praise. This was not simply due to snobbery surrounding the industry but rather based on their quality. Some science fiction films have been held up as great examples of what the human imagination can produce whereas others have been viewed, rightly or wrongly, as the product of Hollywood’s insidious desire for money at the cost of quality. In recent decades, however, science fiction has been more in vogue and films that are in the genre are more likely to be judged fairly.
A film which exists in the milieu of those old films but yet is starkly modern in its ability to be taken as a serious work of fiction is The Bumbry Encounter. Set in the early 1960s, a time when segregation was still strangling American society and in which alien abductions were beginning to be reported with greater frequency, the film charts the story of Terry Bumbry (Skipper Elekwachi) and his wife Jackie (Lauren McFall). Travelling across country, an accident occurs leaving Jackie bruised and injured whilst Terry is seemingly left unharmed. As the police investigate, they soon begin to suspect that Terry is responsible because he is an African American, despite the Bumbrys stating that they encountered aliens.
Director Jay K Raja brings a masterful and powerful short film to life which raises questions not only about our perception of the unknown but how anyone or anything that was different was viewed in the past. Through vivid and masterful direction, Raja brings a sense of unease to his film, insidiously building this throughout its run time to its ultimate climax. I won’t spoil the ending or the twist in its tale, but Raja ensures that having watched The Bumbry Encounter you are left wanting more and that isn’t something that can be said of many films now, particularly short films.
You can read my interview with director Jay K Raja here.