Fan films get a bad rap. Yeah, this is me saying it. They get a bad rap because some time after Sandy Collora made Batman: Dead End they went from things kids made in their back yard to very expensive, semi-professional productions. The true heart of fan films beats in the chests of ten year olds trying to take apart their favorite movie and TV show and put it back together with their friends. That’s what makes the documentary Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made so exciting - it’s about exactly that impulse.
In 1982 a bunch of 11 year old kids in the suburbs decided to remake Raiders of the Lost Ark, shot for shot. The result is something so charming that it disarms even the most cynical viewer. There’s a ‘let’s put on a show!’ vibe to the whole thing that wins you over, and half the fun is seeing how these kids - who spent 7 years working on this project just for themselves, not for viral fame - solved the problems of translating a mega-budget blockbuster into their back yard.
The film eventually became a tape trader secret, passed around in nerd circles until Eli Roth brought it to Harry Knowle’s But-Numb-A-Thon, when it exploded. And eventually the kids, now adults, got back together to shoot the one final scene they couldn’t do as children.
Raiders! premieres at SXSW this year, and it’s one of the reasons I wish I was going to the fest. I can’t wait to see this movie; as a kid I spent countless hours with a video camera and a couple of friends utilizing whatever we had at hand to make whatever we could (usually cartoonishly gory slasher movies). That sense of childish play coupled with a love of movies can be absolutely inspiring, and I’m ready to be inspired by Raiders!.