This is the story of George Van Tassel, and the first contact in the desert that happened not far from the Joshua Tree Retreat center. This film explores his ET encounters, the ideas behind his strange science and the mystery about what happened to him.
As a young aviator he worked for the business tycoon Howard Hughes, but after several years in LA, he grew tired of the corporate “rat race”, and moves to the quiet town of Joshua Tree. One evening in the 1950s Van Tassel receives a surprise visit from an alien being who gives him plans to build a time machine. Subsequently he is downloaded into his consciousness information about both scientific and spiritual principles. Tens of thousands of people would gather at Giant rock in the 1950s for Van Tassels UFO conferences. Then in 1978 after decades of preparing for the Integratron’s activation of the electro-magnetic dome, Van Tassel suddenly dies. Within hours the special technology that took him years to develop vanishes. Why was this taken? And why was his death cloaked in mystery and contradiction? These some of the questions this film pursues.
In researching the film, Berman and his crew embed themselves in the desert community near Van Tassel’s home base by Giant Rock. As they discovered some of the hidden secrets, extraordinary things began to happen. As the film asks questions, more questions are revealed. The overall message is that: Ultimately the path less traveled is invaluable and that magic is here for the asking. Highlighting the drama is the celestial music of Knitting Factory wunderkind Elliott Sharp and an appearance by area resident Eric Burdon (of 1960’s rock group, The Animals).
Berman is a seasoned documentary filmmaker. His last film Commune was a spectacular reexamination of the 60’s/70’s counterculture. In People of Earth he returns to California for a very different story: the untold tale about the r/evolutionary potentials of science, spirit and life beyond earth. His work has received support from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and State Humanities Councils and numerous foundations. Berman, originally from New York, is a teacher of film and media studies at CSU (California State University) San Marcos.