Newly released and available online is the documentary “Dead Bigfoot: A True Story.”
You can watch it at DeadBigfoot.Com
I must admit to having watched “Dead Bigfoot” with a certain degree of skepticism. It is difficult not to let my personal opinion of Justin Smeja color my reaction to his story.
The first point that needs to be addressed is the title. It is, after all the first thing that will attract you to a movie, or an article, or a video game, whatever. As someone who writes titles I can say as a means to get attention we will manipulate words within a title while usually trying to remain true to those words within the context. I do it, so I recognize it when it is done elsewhere. Use of the term “True” in any movie does not necessarily have to reflect that the story is Fact. This is how story tellers get away with it, part of the definition of “True” is:
…a statement or idea that is true or accepted as true.
So long as someone can be shown to accept the story as True, then the title is not an outright lie. That opens the door to the subjective aspect of truth so places no burden of proof on the people telling their story (and none is offered,) as opposed to the definition of Fact:
…something that truly exists or happens: something that has actual existence. A true piece of information.
In “Dead Bigfoot” Ro Sahebi, whose initial interview with Smeja on YouTube is inter-cut throughout, offers Smeja a larger audience and an opportunity to go into greater detail in the telling of the story, as if a retelling will offer any new credibility to it. No substantial new facts are offered , only allowing Smeja an opportunity to, in retrospect, express his feelings about the events of that day. Since Smeja has been the subject of much controversy and public debate over those actions, and target for a great deal of criticism since first telling his story, he comes across as less than sincere, able to target his expressions of regret or emotion to specific points raised by the many commenters. More on that later.
New to this documentary is the Driver’s story. Prior to this documentary, the other man with Smeja that day has remained publicly silent on the events. For me, hearing the driver’s story at this point offers little in the way of corroboration. Too much time has passed since the events, and by the driver’s own admission he and Smeja are still good friends, so there is plenty of opportunity for them to have discussed their versions, and whether by design or simply through normal human psychology, peoples’ stories will tend to merge. A possibility supported by the statement of Bart Cutino when he admits he inadvertently eavesdropped on Smeja and the driver discussing the events of that day. That Cutino says he did not hear anything to indicate that their story is a fabrication is not enough evidence of it being factual, only that they did not have such a conversation while he was listening. Cutino also does not offer anything to indicate whether or not they were aware of his presence as they spoke. Neither are these questions evidence that they have fabricated a story, they merely eliminate the value of second hand information overheard by Cutino, and confirm that the pair continue to discuss the story, and contaminate it as evidence.
“Dead Bigfoot offers footage of the polygraph test, which pretty muych everyone who follows Bigfoot research is aware Smeja passed. It is important to note a point not mentioned in the documentary, that a polygraph only effectively tests what the subject believes, or what they are comfortable saying. That leaves a gap which opinions on either side fill in with their own view. As for the value of the polygraph, From Wikipedia:
The efficacy of polygraphs is debated in the scientific community. In 2001, a significant fraction of the scientific community considered polygraphy to be pseudoscience. In 2002, a review by the National Academies of Science found that in populations untrained in countermeasures, polygraph testing can discriminate lying from truth telling at rates above chance, though below perfection. These results apply only to specific events and not to screening where it is assumed that polygraph would work less well. Effectiveness may also be worsened by counter measures.
When rather ham-handedly asked if she believes in Bigfoot now, the polygraph expert cautiously states that in her opinion, based upon the results of the test, Smeja is not lying. But there are other tests for lying, more on that later. What it would seem to come down to is that if you believe what you are saying, or rehearse it enough to be comfortable saying it, a polygraph is ineffective. Though it is not said in the movie it is said in the original interview, Smeja spent several weeks online in chat rooms telling and retelling his story. I would rather see records of those exchanges than have heard Smeja offer up his story one more time.
If the events on that day are what Justin Smeja and his driver claim or not, is something we will probably never know and “Dead Bigfoot” offers nothing more in the way of evidence. Given the reluctance of the driver to speak, and the time that has passed casting significant doubt on his story, all that exists as evidence in this case is the word of Justin Smeja. Throughout this documentary and the previous interview posted on YouTube, Smeja’s word for the events is simply accepted, no attempt made to challenge questionable elements of his story. Other elements from the original interview have been left out altogether. What I find to be a serious discrepancy is a statement made within the documentary by Smeja, echoed by Ro Sahebi that Smeja is not an attention seeker. This statement is often used in stories of the unexplained as key to establishing credibility of the person telling the story. If Smeja is not an attention seeker, then I question why his own stated reason for killing what he describes as an infant is to be able to take it back as proof, when they could not find the adult he had already wounded?
“Fuck it, let’s just shoot one of these little ones.”
Later in the movie Smeja states that if he could go back to that day he would have taken the infant body, if there had been a Fish and Game officer present he would have sped past them and gone straight to the news. One significant element casts doubt on his claim of not being an attention seeker. Smeja makes various statements of regret for the events of that day, statements which come across more as regret that he has been criticized for his actions and the attitudes he has repeatedly expressed about those events. He shows concern over how his daughter will come to view him as she learns of his actions. “Dead Bigfoot” tries to offer him an opportunity to express that he is not the callous killer many people view him as, while glossing over his casual admission to breaking the law his intention to shoot a bear in an area he was not permitted for. AN attempt is made to gain sympathy for Smeja by showing him recognizing publicly that by shooting the creatures he claims, he was not a hunter, in retrospect recognizing the acts murder. The disturbing part comes at the end, the part that continues to cast his motives in doubt when it is stated that Smeja still intends to kill a Bigfoot.
Without entering into the Kill/No Kill debate, a man who is not seeking recognition, says he does not care what others believe, also has no need to seek further proof. A man who is seeking some form of redemption, or acquittal of past misdeeds can never accomplish his goal by repeating those deeds.
At various points in telling his story, Justin goes into great detail, even to the point of breaking it down by breaths taken, and seconds passed. He can be seen to smile at certain times others might find inappropriate. Editing in “Dead Bigfoot” cuts some of that out, but it is there if you look for it, and I offer up this presentation on spotting when someone is lying. I have cut to the relevant point, but do feel free to watch the talk in its entirety, and then I whole heartedly recommend you follow that up by watching “Dead Bigfoot: A True Story.”
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