Filmmaker Captures Klingon Qep'aBy Michelle
February 16, 2005 - 10:23 PM
"I donít speak Klingonese," admitted Alexandre O. Philippe, the director of Earthlings: Ugly Bags of Mostly Water, a documentary about the members of the Klingon Language Institute. "In a sense, I think that what makes Earthlings such a unique documentary - and one thatís very different from Trekkies - is that I really have more of an outside perspective on the whole thing. I wanted to give these people the opportunity to tell their story from their perspective."
Earthings: Ugly Bags of Mostly Water debuted at the Cannes Film Market last May (story). In a new interview with StarTrekFans.net, Philippe said that while he enjoyed the original series and The Next Generation, he doesn't consider himself a Star Trek fan. Originally from Switzerland, he attended NYU's writing program where he produced plays, then became a screenwriter with an interest in popular culture; his first film was Chick Flick, a feature-length documentary film about the life and times of Mike the Headless Chicken. After discovering the Klingon Hamlet in an airport bookstore, he decided to make a film about the Klingon-speaking community and eventually approached Lawrence Schoen, the director of the Klingon Language Institute.
Of that community, Philippe observed, "I think itís too easy to point your finger and say 'look, how weird!' My intent was to make people think twice before they make fun of them, and not dismiss the language just because of its association with Star Trek...the people in Earthlings have a wonderful sense of humor." Centered on a qep'a (or gathering) in Philadelphia of people who embrace both the Klingon language and lifestyle, the film features students and writers of Klingon as well as Marc Okrand, who created the Klingon language for the Star Trek motion pictures, and Michael Dorn, who played Worf on The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.
"Itís about communication," said Philippe. "Itís a very pragmatic language...sort of the opposite of political speak, when you think about it, and I find it very refreshing." Some of the people he interviewed for the film include a man who tried to raise his toddler son to speak Klingon, the composer of the Klingon National Anthem and a passionate paintball player who learned the language to communicate with teammates in a language the opposing teams couldn't understand.
Philippe calls his film a picture show rather than a documentary, explaining, "A documentary, in the true sense of the word, presents its subject matter factually, objectively, without editorializing or any fictional matter. A mockumentary uses fictional material and strives to make it look real...a Picture Show is, in fact, the exact opposite of a mockumentary...blurring the lines between reality and fiction...the way historians (or, at least, great historians) are storytellers."
Though he felt like something of an outsider staying at the same hotel as the conference attendees, Philippe said that there was a range of activities including Klingon lessons, games and singing and that some people dressed like Klingons all the time while others never did. "It couldnít be a more eclectic group of people. Nothing like what youíd actually expect. People who, seemingly, have nothing to do with one another. And yet, theyíre all the best of friends. Itís the Klingon language that binds them, and thatís a wonderful thing," he said.
Philippe felt that many outsiders, including Dorn, seem to believe that Klingon speakers have difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality, but he did not believe that to be the case. "I'd like people to realize that human activities, no matter how small, obscure, or seemingly trivial, shouldnít be taken for granted. We live in a truly amazing world, and the human experience is so vast and rich and complex...how can we not be in awe of things like that? Hereís a group of people who get together every year to share their passion for a constructed language from outer space, regardless of what people say about them. Thatís pretty remarkable, donít you think?" he asked.
For more, including Philippe's hopes for a US DVD release and plans to broadcast the film at gatherings in Europe, see the original article at StarTrekFans.net. More information is available as well at the film's official site.