If you could star in your favourite movie, would you do it?
Well these guys did. 11 year-olds Chris, Eric and Jayson saw cult classic Raiders of the Lost Ark on its initial release and loved it so much they decided to do a shot-by-shot remake/love-letter to their favourite film, starring themselves, and their friends.
Spending several summers on the project at their homes in Mississippi, the three friends aged significantly throughout the project, determined to make as painstakingly real an adaptation of Raiders as possible on their pocket money. Filming all but one of its scenes, the iconic fight on the airfield, Raiders! follows the project from its initial conception, the falling-out between the co-stars, eventual public interest in the production and filming of the final sequence decades later.
Inter-spliced with footage of the production and sections of the final product, it is a pure joy to watch the instantly recognisable moments in film history acted out on a shoestring budget by a group who visibly love the original film. Raiders! spends much of its run-time on the personal relationships between the boys and their families and a ‘where-have-they-been’ exploration of their lives between the decades of filming.
The personal stories never as engaging as the production of the film itself and initial public discovery of the project, Raiders! is most captivating when chronicling initial reactions to the film when shown to outsiders and gradual spread in popularity amongst fans of cinema and specifically Indiana Jones who appreciate the boys’ affectionate recreation of the iconic hit. This aspect of the film’s phenomenon is unfortunately introduced too late in the documentary and dealt with all-too fleetingly, lacking detail on the accumulating interest in the remake and just how it travelled all the way to the festival circuit.
Enjoyable above all are the behind-the-scenes footage of the final scene’s production and the now grown men acting out the fight/rescue sequence with their original Marion, made all the more engrossing by an 11th-hour shock to the film’s production crew.
A treat to anyone who ever picked up a video camera or thought that Indiana Jones was just that bit more special than so much of what cinema has to offer, watching Raiders!, you can’t help but smile.
Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made is currently screening at the Melbourne International Film Festival