There are thousands upon thousands of religions out there in the world. So many, in fact, that no one can really keep track of them. Many are suspiciously similar and feel like variations on a theme rather than independent belief systems. Whilst others might sound more outlandish, we’ve become accustomed to accepting the (rather unlikely) central tenets of major religions. I mean, when you think about it, the concept of a celestial being in the sky isn’t that far removed from an extra-terrestrial.

Raëlism is a UFO-based religion which was formed by a French journalist Claude Vorilhon, aka Raël, in the 1970s. It was founded after a visitation from a species of aliens, called the Elohim, who imparted their knowledge upon him. The doctrine teaches that humans were engineered by the Elohim and that they’ve been mistaken as gods. During the reign of man, there have been a number of hybrid Elohim/human prophets, the last of which is Raël. Filmmaker Yoav Shamir was invited to follow the prophet and investigates the appeal of Raëlism in The Prophet and the Space Aliens.

The Prophet and the Space Aliens approaches its subject with an open mind. Largely focussed on Raël, but also his entourage and other followers of the International Raëlian Movement, Shamir asks and listens. Whilst the director clearly has his own opinions, he tries to put them aside. As with most cults, the leader seems to have carte blanche when it comes to sexual partners and living off the generosity of others. His legitimacy is up for debate. Does he believe in all this or did he just take an opportunity to become famous? The Prophet and the Space Aliens would suggest the latter but either way it’s a fascinating insight into what a religious group looks like.

The Prophet and the Space Aliens screened at Fantasia Festival.