Because the documentary's co-directors co-founded the Brooklyn Underground Film Festival (they originally encountered Swain and Bernier's films as festival submissions), it's easy to read "Journey to Planet X" as a sly commentary on the hierarchy of the independent film community. Filmmakers are often beaten down by the endless pressure to perform, hustle and network -- not to mention facing critical scrutiny -- along the film festival circuit, getting further and further away from the reason they started making movies in the first place. That hectic cycle is a world away from the tiny bubble in which Swain and Bernier work, tinkering with software on old computers and growing giddy because the programmer for something called the Geek Film Festival (which brings a different set of expectations than, say, Sundance) decides to attend a "Planet X" screening.
Happy to do what they're doing only because they can get away with it, Swain and Bernier aren't tied to the film world in any capacity other than their passion to make something that pleases them -- the ultimate subjective masterpieces. More than anything else, the movie eloquently captures the B-movie convictions of Ed Wood upgraded to the digital age. Unsurprisingly, when "Planet X" finally unspools to a sea of giggles at the movie's climax, it amounts to an amusingly incoherent barrage of crummy CGI and bad acting, although nobody ever puts it in those terms. "The whole point is to have fun," Bernier says, and that's enough to keep everybody satisfied, and reason enough for more ambitious filmmakers to feel a twinge of envy.
Criticwire grade: B+
HOW WILL IT PLAY? With its concise length and the low key subject, "Journey to Planet X" will likely find its biggest audience on the festival circuit, and has the unique opportunity to play genre festivals as few documentaries do. It is poised to find a wider audience through a digital release.