Tuesday, May 5, 2015

HotDocs 2015 Film Review - Raiders!

Eric Zala remembers that Raiders of the Lost Arc came out in July, 1981. His future collaborator Chris Strompolos recalls seeing the film and knew right away that he had to recreate it. Strompolos realized that he could not do this on his own spotted Eric reading a Raiders comic one day on the bus to school and struck up a conversation. The pair added Jayson Lamb who had a nose for special effects making the basis to get the project off the ground.  The trio along with friends and siblings proceeded to spend the next 7 summers working on the film completing every shot except for the airplane flying wing scene that was out of their budget and expertise.

The documentary Raiders! covers several main story-lines. It goes back to show scene from the original VHS tape made by the boys which is unique and compelling partly because they did not shoot the film in order leading to large swings in ages of the players as the film goes along. It also adds the attempt to get that final airplane scene done with financial backing and professionals to complete the film now 30 years later. The third branch of the film delves into the ever changing relationship between Zala and Strompolos.

Directors Jeremy Coon and Tim Skousen open the film with Zala and Strompolos trying to secure the funds needed to shoot the airplane scene. The pair work an old time Mississippi gentleman for the money. The directors pace the film smartly. They show shots from the VHS tape then mix in stories about the main three creators along with other friend that played parts in the film. Many cast members played multiple parts especially Eric brother who had roles such as Egyptian digger #2 and Nazi solider #3 in various scenes. The point of view of Eric and Chris family are also good additions to the narrative. Eric's mother was particularly closely involved as their house was the main set for many scenes with the Zala living room turning into a movie set summer after summer. Chris' mom had an important role as well.  She worked for the local TV station and secured the cameras for the boys that they used in the shoot.

The spark for the revival of the project can be traced back to the 2002 Butt- Numb-A- Thon film marathon. An event where super movie geeks get together to watch films vintage films, premiers and trailers for 24 hours straight normally featuring a first screening of a major film for that year. Major attendees Director Eli Roth and Ain't it Cool News' Harry Knowles got their hands on a copy of the boys films and decided to show it at the event. They ran it at breakfast ahead of the big release that year Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers forty-five minutes in to the screening they had to shut it off to show Two Towers resulting in boo's from the captivated audience. The reaction led the pair to track down the authors for a special screening with the full premier treatment.

Raider! is an entertaining romp that will have audiences rooting for the kids and their adult alter egos to get the project complete. The directors handle the material well especially the twist of showing the boys scenes side by side with the original film. It's an enjoyable time at the movies and a film that I can recommend.

*** 1/2 out of 4

Raiders! | Jeremy Coon / Tim Skousen | U.S.A. | 2015 | 104 Minutes.

Tags: Re create, Shot for Shot , Kids, 7 Year project, High School, Butt-Numb-A -Thon, Harry Knowles, Eli Roth.

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