Screen Reviews

Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made

Three guys in middle school set out to recreate their favorite film.

Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made

directed by Tim Skousen & Jeremy Coon

Drafthouse Films

In 1982, three middle school kids in Mississippi decided that they wanted to film Raiders of the Lost Ark. So they did. Over the next seven years, with VHS cameras and homemade special effects, and any friends and neighbors they could round up, they made an almost shot-for-shot recreation of the seminal adventure film of the Eighties. This is their story.

As someone almost the same age as these guys, this documentary really hit home for me. My nephew and I wanted to make our own Star Wars movie when we were that age. We used my parent’s old Super 8 camera to stage preliminary scenes, until we found out that it didn’t work anymore, and even if it did, no one near our small town could develop the film cartridges anyway. Not so for these Indiana Jones fans. After seeing the original film one time in the theater, they became obsessed with recreating it. They drew storyboards, cobbled together costumes, made props and managed special effect ranging from blood spatters to actual fire used in the scene in Marion’s bar.

While the talking heads reminiscing about the past, interspersed with clips of the Adaptation (as the fan film came to be called), are interesting, the real drama comes in the quest of the adults to finally finish the movie. The kids were never able to film the scene where Indy fights the bald Nazi in the airfield, with the culminating airplane explosion. After having the Adaptation discovered by Eli Roth and Harry Knowles, the fire is stoked to finally finish it, and Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made chronicles that journey as well. In addition to the mechanics of three amateurs trying to film a real movie scene with a budget (and commensurate problems), it follows the journey of middle-aged men who have an opportunity to fulfill a dream that can’t be found in a corporate job.

Fans of the Indiana Jones movies will get a kick out of this. Generation X’ers will certainly feel nostalgic while watching this. But the real audience for this documentary is that budding artist who always wanted to create something, but never took the step. With digital technology now, anyone can be a film maker. Maybe Raiders! will inspire the next generation’s auteur.

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