The Youtube age has been a wonderful thing for aspiring filmmakers. No longer do filmmakers have to struggle through the Hollywood system, battling against unseen prejudices and bigotry. Picking up a camera and gathering some friends to shoot a labour of love has never been easier.
But it’s easy to forget that this desire by young filmmakers has been there long before the internet age. Over 30 years ago, 3 boys had the same dream and set out to complete one of the most insane projects in movie history.
This is a little bit of a unique experience for me as, not only am I reviewing my first Netflix film, but I’m reviewing a film that covers the making of another film that I’ve never seen!
Raiders! The Story Of The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made introduces us to a magical unseen object. The Holy Grail of indie film making if you will. An absolute labour of love that can honestly be said to have taken a lifetime to complete.
In 1982 three teenagers (Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb) got together and decided to remake Raiders of the Lost Ark. But unlike the $18 million extravagance of the original, they managed to do it (mostly!) with only $5000.
Over the next 7 years, every summer the trio would get together and painstakingly recreate almost every aspect of that first Indiana Jones film. What they filmed would eventually be named Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation.
Alas time and pain would tear the friendship of those boys apart and it seems this unique creation would be lost to the ravages of time. Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of Eli Roth, Harry Knowles and many others, the film would find a new life and that is where our story (and the documentary) begins.
In the 30 years or so that I have been watching movies, I have never before seen a film that better shows how a truly great story can bring people together.
Regardless of your personal opinion of the Indiana Jones series, the fact is this one story brought 3 boys together to achieve a dream. Yes, that dream took close to 30 years to come true, but if anything that shows just how worthwhile pursuing your dream can be.
The film itself is split into 2 threads, with one following first-person accounts from parents and the (now adult) kids discussing the various challenges and pitfalls of how the adaptation came to be.
Indy fan or not, it’s impossible not to get caught up in the joy (and sometimes hilarity) of watching a bunch of white kids in their early teens play Nazis, Arabs and indigenous Peruvians!
Alas the adaptation was missing one key scene that proved impossible to shoot on such a merge budget during the 80s: The one where Indy fights the giant Nazi near the rotating propeller.
And so the second thread covers the attempt to film this scene in 2014 and finally complete a dream that was 30 years in the making. Admittedly this is slightly less engaging than the previous thread, but nonetheless the passion to complete something, that most of us would have given up years ago, is apparent in every scene.
This is not a perfect documentary and I know it will never be considered alongside titans such as The Fog of War or Taxi to the Dark Side. But a great documentary doesn’t always have to be about war, tragedy and pain. Sometimes a great documentary can just be about 3 little boys who wanted to make a movie. And in the end, isn’t that just as inspiring?
Raiders! The Story Of The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made is currently available on Netflix UK.