For decades, Hollywood has pondered the age-old question: Are we alone in the universe? The Orchard’s new documentary Unacknowledged claims to have the answer.
Directed by Michael Mazzola and narrated by Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito, the film features the work of Dr. Steven Greer, founder of The Disclosure Project, and is dubbed an important exposé revealing covert interstellar secrets (that’s right, Hillary Clinton and other high-level public servants know all about ET visitors, says Greer).
“There’s no question in my mind that Hillary’s aware of the issue,” Greer says. “Her campaign chairperson John Podesta came out in favor of disclosure and said that the government should come forward with this information. And he remained a disclosure advocate all the way through the campaign. And [former] CIA Director James Woolsey first told me that he had made specific directed inquiries into the subject but was denied access.”
What might come as a shock is how well these documentaries do on digital platforms. After debuting on iTunes on May 9, Unacknowledged shot to the No. 1 documentary spot worldwide and No. 2 in the U.S. (second only to Laura Poitras’ Julian Assange pic Risk). In fact, Unacknowledged, which debuted on VOD on May 23, is outpacing Risk in its first few weeks, despite the latter’s high-profile subject, a Cannes 2016 debut and an Oscar-winning director (Poitras won the 2015 best documentary prize for Citizenfour).
Greer, a retired emergency room doctor, raised more than $700,000 through crowdfunding to finance the film and an accompanying book, published April 25 by A&M Publishing, but he still needed to find a distributor. Enter The Orchard, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Music Entertainment that entered the film distribution space just two and a half years ago and already has an impressive track record with docs, having shepherded Life, Animated and Cartel Land to Oscar nominations in successive years. The company acquired Unacknowledged back in September, with hopes of tapping into the rabid UFO fan base. The film features ET revelations from numerous government sources including Richard Doty, a former special agent for the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations and offers whistleblower testimony, documents and more UFO footage than an X-Files marathon.
Over the years, several Hollywood projects featuring Greer’s work fell apart “inexplicably,” he says, prompting him to put an unusual clause in his contract with The Orchard that if the movie wasn’t released as planned, the rights would revert back to him. Among the projects he says were deep-sixed were a Fox film being developed by Arnold Kopelson (Seven) and an ABC News segment with Ira Rosen.
“What we did here was ensure that the truth about this issue could get to the public, and if there was any attempt to shelve it, we would call it back,” adds Greer.
Alas, Unacknowledged is out and doing brisk business since its debut. And given its success on streaming platforms, Greer once again has been approached by a few Hollywood producers that he declined to name about pursuing a narrative feature film based on his work. In the meantime, he and Mazzola say no one should be surprised that their film has found its audience.
“I think UFOs are totally underestimated in terms of the public interest in this,” says Mazzola. “Besides pornography, it’s probably the most searched topic on the internet. And we’re really excited to be the first UFO documentary to have a major distributor backing us.”