‘Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made’ reviewed

❉ A definite recommendation for fans of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ and stories about real people.

“On the Internet somebody had written, “It seems like a good example of bad parenting to me.”

In 1982, three kids embarked on remaking ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ shot by shot. Their endeavour lasted over seven years. They completed the film except for one scene. How they didn’t end up killing themselves is beyond me.

One should never underestimate the resourcefulness, imagination and drive that children have (and yet there are child labour laws. Heh.) Most people would’ve given up considering their lack of resources, but these kids trundled on. Once the film was completed in 1988, that was that. The kids grew up, moved on, and grew further apart from one another. C’est la vie.

That is, until 2002 when Eli Roth came across a third generation copy of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation’ and handed it over to Harry Knowles who then showed it at his film festival, Butt-Numb-A-Thon. Suffice to say it proved to be extremely successful, with the audience even booing the upcoming showing of Peter Jackson’s ‘The Two Towers’ because it was cutting the film short! Eventually, with this newfound popularity, the trio responsible for it (Eric Zala, Chris Strompolos, and Jayson Lamb) were in the limelight talking about this film they made 15 years earlier. Several years pass, and suddenly they get the idea to maybe finally film that last scene. Which proves easier said than done, considering the scene is the big stunt-heavy one where Indiana Jones fights a big hulk of a Nazi around a moving plane.

That pursuit makes up the crux of this film and in any other documentary that would be more than enough to justify it’s existence. You could just only focus on that and we’d have a niche, but fascinating and satisfying feature on your hands. However, something rather interesting happens, as the film carries on it strikes up a more personal tone.  You start to find out more about what was going on in the background with these kid’s lives. The trio all lived in homes with domestic issues. Abusive stepfathers, struggling mothers. They were having a really trying time of it.

Then ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ comes along in the summer of ’81, and sparks their creative juices. These kids have something to do, something to distract them and bring them together. This project of theirs marches on through 7 years! For a child that seems like an eternity. They were tired of the project by then. Plus issues were forming between Chris and Eric, and Jayson with the other two. Once the film was completed and premiered in their town, the ended up separating. Eventually, by the film’s resurgence most of the old wounds had been healed.

But them all coming together to finally finish this film after 26 years is a surreal moment. You see, this isn’t just some film to them. It’s the artefact of their childhoods. Of those precious moments of happiness, comradery, and freedom. That’s vital to who they are. ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ is ingrained in them as much (maybe even more than) Spielberg and Co. And to now see them grown up trying to finish it with the support of their friends and family  With them all counting on them to finish it. It’s heartwarming. You get suckered up into this and root for them. The film gets tense toward the end, with the setbacks due to rain, and a quite scary accident on the final day of shooting. But do they finish it? Do they pull through at their only shot at completing their childhood masterpiece?…

You’ll have to watch the film to find out.

I will say this though. It is so easy for cynical people and indeed the mainstream media to put down fans, and their pursuits and loves. But you truly can’t underestimate the arts and it’s influence and meaning on the public. They form such essential building blocks of our society and make-up. Just thinking about ‘Raiders’ now brings me back to MY childhood. Those warm summer days of where the VHS ruled supreme. We can never get those back, but we do get them on loan from time to time.

Those underdogs of 1982, though? They’re here to stay.

❉ Visit the official website: http://www.raidersdoc.com/


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