Did a soldier from 2036 interact online with the people of 2000 during a time-traveling mission, or was it an elaborate hoax?
Jay Cheel, the director of BEAUTY DAY and founder/editor of The Documentary Blog, explores his interest in time travel through the stranger than fiction episode in 2000 involving a man who claimed to be a time traveller. In the post-apocalyptic America of 2036, soldier John Titor is sent back to 1975 in search of an IBM computer. The world would know nothing of this clandestine, physics-defying journey, except that Titor decided to make a stopover in 2000 to meet with his family, and even himself as a toddler. During this unexpected excursion, he inexplicably shared details online of his mission and his mode of chronal displacement. While skeptics immediately doubted the veracity of Titor’s claims, still others have maintained their belief of a crosstime correspondence.
Cheel has less than three weeks left as the inaugural Doc Ignite project – Hot Docs’ recently introduced documentary-exclusive crowdfunding site. At the time of this writing, backers have contributed more than 60% of his campaign goal of $25,000, which is earmarked to film recreations of John Titor’s 1975 time travel mission.
Cheel’s first film demonstrated that he knows a good doc subject when he finds one, and, like Cap’n Video, Titor makes for a subject with a great hook – even if Cheel will have to manufacture his subject based largely on his Internet posts and his believers’ ideas about him rather than, I imagine, his participation – unless, like Colin Trevorrow’s thematically similar recent narrative SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED, he manages to track Titor down. The fantastical elements and questions around the episode immediately bring to mind the Toynbee Tiles from one of my favorite docs of recent years, RESURRECT DEAD, and just as Jon Foy creatively fleshed out his story with animation and the like, it sounds like Cheel’s recreations will function in the same way to more fully immerse his audience in Titor’s claims. In a word, the project just sounds like a lot of fun, and I’m interested in seeing what he does with it.