Friday, June 17, 2016

Raiders! The Story of The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made

You've probably heard the story by now: Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark comes out in 1981 and blows everyone's minds, but three Mississippi kids' minds are arguably blown more than anyone else's. Against all odds, and without the internet or even a VHS copy of the movie to assist them, they set out to complete a shot for shot remake of the movie to be filmed in their houses, backyards, and surrounding town. For the next seven years, they work tirelessly through every summer vacation and spring break to finish this thing, sacrificing any semblance of a "normal" childhood in the quest to achieve their ultimate goal. An astonishing seven years later, they finally wrap production, and fifteen years after that, their movie becomes a sensation among hardcore film fans. So...what next?

Raiders! The Story of The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made
Directors: Jeremy Coon & Tim Skousen
Starring: Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala, Jayson Lamb


Well, if you're Chris Strompolos and Eric Zala — the two masterminds behind "the greatest fan film ever made" — what's next is to finish the movie for real, and that means completing the one scene they could never crack as kids: the scene in which the Nazi plane explodes on the tarmac. The new documentary Raiders! traces the history of their original fan film and incorporates a bunch of entertaining behind-the-scenes footage from that production, but I was already familiar with most of that because I read about this Raiders adaptation years ago and have been following the story for a long time.


Thankfully, the inclusion of the guys trying to complete the airplane sequence adds a layer of thematic significance to the movie that would be absent otherwise. The documentary is no longer merely a visual scrapbook — now it's actually about something. It's an examination of obsession, and we watch to see to what lengths these men will go in order to finish what they began more than thirty years prior. (There's also an interesting through line about how divorce ripped their families apart, and how they found solace and a male father figure in Raiders and the character of Indiana Jones.) The stakes are admittedly fairly low in the grand scheme of things, but that's where the old footage comes in handy; seeing them swing from vines and nearly burn down their parents' houses, we're instantly transported back to our own childhoods, imagining how fun it would be to be doing what they're doing, and we root for them to pull off the impossible.

I won't spoil what happens, but things take some turns I didn't see coming. Even if you think you already know all of the ins and outs of the story, Raiders! is still worth checking out.

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