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'Crop Circles: Quest For Truth'

You saw them in "Signs," you read about them in Scientific American, now those mysterious geometric patterns that irritate the heck out of farmers have a film all their own. It's called "Crop Circles: Quest For Truth," and you can tell by the title that it means business.

With its portentous David Hamilton score and numerous interviews with true believers ("a rare glimpse into the inner sanctum of crop circle experts and aficionados," the press notes grandly call it), the film seems on its face best suited for the Discovery Channel or as an agricultural episode of "X-Files."

But "Crop Circles" producer-director William Gazecki was Oscar-nominated for his meticulous multi-hour documentary "Waco: The Rules of Engagement," and that has given his new film an air of seriousness that only a theatrical screen is big enough to handle.

In truth, these crop circles do look lovely and amazing from the air. Hundreds have popped up all over the world in a boggling variety of elaborately worked patterns. A straightforward examination of what they might be and where they might come from would certainly be of interest, but that's not what we've got here.

Rather "Crop Circles" turns out to be a film that's interesting in spite of itself. It's less an impartial investigation than an advocacy film, having been hijacked by the members of the "inner sanctum" mentioned above. These folks are major talkers who believe body and soul that the circles were created by extraterrestrial intelligences, perhaps trying to communicate with a noticeably dense human race.

Frankly, some of these crop patterns are so amazing that alien assistance seems a distinct possibility, but filmmaker Gazecki's notions of ferreting out the truth don't seem to include letting each side of an issue have its say.

So although there are several dismissive references to those who think the circles are the result of malicious hoaxers, no one speaks to that point on camera. There is no lack of screen time for zealots who are furious that anyone could so much as harbor a doubt about the outer space connection, but there is not a single spokesman, articulate or otherwise, for a more skeptical point of view. It's a puzzling omission, a frustrating one as well.

What we get instead are a lot of vintage videos, some nearly two decades old, that capture the crop circles shortly after they appear. There's a lot of pointing and measuring to be seen, numerous intricate diagrams being drawn, and frequent noticing of the complete lack of any footprints or other signs of human activity.

Those who work in the crop circle field also talk a lot about how thrilling it can be to have these formations in your life. "Totally amazing" is a typical comment, with one person exclaiming, "The sheer wonder and excitement are almost too much to bear."

Regrettably, except for the visual power of the circles, very little of that excitement makes its way into this rather dour, deadly earnest work, which doesn't have a fraction of the sense of humor that characterizes "Signs."

Putting things in the sanest perspective is not anyone associated with the film's august "inner sanctum" but a farmer affected by the phenomenon. "It's nice," he says, "to have one or two mysteries left in life."

No MPAA rating. Times guidelines: not for the skeptical.

"Crop Circles: Quest For Truth"

An OpenEdge Media presentation. Director William Gazecki. Producer William Gazecki. Executive producers Suzanne Taylor, Diahann Hughes, Monte Zinn. Cinematographer Ariane Compagnone. Editor Morgan Barnard. Music David Hamilton. Running time: 2 hours.

Exclusively at the Nuart Theater, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (310) 478-6379.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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