Interracial couples in the 60s can’t have had it easy, but Jackie and Terry Bumbry are in love and their marriage is ready for whatever the world can throw at them. That is until a paranormal encounter disrupts their bliss and reporting it triggers unforeseen consequences. In The Bumbry Encounter, writer/director Jay K. Raja twists the sci-fi genre to create a thrilling narrative about a couple going against social norms.
Though inspired by a real life incident, that happened to an interracial couple in 1961 – the Hill Abduction, a landmark case in UFO abduction stories – the narrative takes a completely different direction, partly inspired by the state of our current political climate. As a filmmaker, Raja sees genre as a platform to question social norms and dive into interpersonal conflicts andThe Bumbry Encounter delivers on both levels.
From the opening scene, the film has a striking visual aesthetic, with a 60s vibe emanating from the screen and soundtrack. The car, costumes, music, everything is there to set the tone and very quickly establish the happy state of the film’s newlyweds. It abruptly changes though, and the plot truly starts in a much more grim atmosphere.
Since the majority of the film happens in one location, the Bumbry’s living room, the set design and the cinematography are key elements in achieving the film’s desired visual aesthetic. Shot on a stage, production designer (Micah Embry Wilmott) convincingly recreated a full room with significant 60s style from scratch. While cinematographer (Jerome Stolly) was able to set-up lighting that would magnify the specific look they were creating.
Since the film focuses on the psychological, using the sci-fi element as a catalyst for the narrative, rather than the main focus, this visual look fosters a captivating and chilling atmosphere. However for the flashback, in order to bring the incident to the screen in a non-gimmicky way, the budget forced them to get creative and use a combination of live action, background plates, miniatures and VFX work by Roth Rind (also credited as the producer).
The film mainly unfolds through its dialogue. Firstly, between the married couple and then, most importantly, between the wife and the psychologist as the tension escalates. Relying heavily on the performances of its three main actors, Lauren McFall and Skipper Elekwachi (The Bumbry’s) have great chemistry in the flashbacks, but it’s in the scenes with Doctor Bancroft (Ross Turner) that the performances are truly remarkable. As he gets increasingly threatening (psychologically) and she goes from concerned to appalled, before being terrified.
The Bumbry Encounter was selected at the Palm Springs ShortFest and Mill Valley festival, to name a few, ahead of its online release. Raja and producing partner Roth Rind are currently in the writing and development stage of a TV show amongst other projects.