Review: ‘Raiders!’ doc leaves audiences wanting more Special

Posted Jun 21, 2016 by Sarah Gopaul
‘Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made’ is an amusing and inspiring tale of a group of kids with more drive than many adults and how that ambition can be sparked again years later.
A scene from ‘Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made’
A scene from ‘Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made’
Drafthouse FIlms
It’s said imitation is the best form of flattery and for years admirers have taken this sentiment to heart. Fan fiction and art exist in abundance as enthusiasts try to reproduce and/or extrapolate their favourite stories and characters. Via the increased accessibility of home video, their devotion found a new outlet. While most aficionados settled for recreating a beloved scene, there was a group of kids from Mississippi determined to produce a shot-for-shot remake of their favourite new adventure. Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made is their tale as they attempt to complete the picture decades later.
In 1982, three 11-year-olds — Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala, and Jayson Lamb — would launch film production on a project that would take seven summers in their youth, and one year 25 years later to complete. Chris and Eric were inseparable as kids, but they’d never embarked on anything this large before. Recruiting all of their school friends, including Jayson who would be in charge of special effects and some carefree adults, the pair made what was undoubtedly one of the most impressive amateur films of all time — an accurate recreation of Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. Each summer everyone would reprise their roles and/or take on new ones, contribute props and costumes, and often take serious risks to make this dream a reality. Upon graduating high school, the only unfinished scene was the final airplane battle. Thus, 25 years later Chris and Eric decide to find the financing and necessary expertise to shoot the final sequence.
The film splits its focus almost evenly between the original production and the current attempt to complete Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation. The documentary filmmakers talk to everyone, from the participants to their parents to the local news anchor sent to cover the story decades earlier. In hindsight they all seem to comprehend how crazy the endeavour was, but also cherish the memories of having worked on the film. The more recent production proves they haven’t lost their lust for foolish undertakings as they commission the construction of a plane and try to complete the shoot in 10 days in spite of endless downpours, career ending threats and faulty pyrotechnics.
In between shoots, the amateur movie became popular on the VHS circuit as friends copied and shared this impressive recreation. Eli Roth, Harry Jay Knowles and others discuss how they discovered the film and their fascination with its creators, which eventually motivated them to return to their long-forgotten project. The teens’ resourcefulness and their adult commitment are equally impressive and captivating. Yet in spite of an understanding and practical lack of expectation, the documentary’s biggest disappointment is that audiences don’t get to see the original adaptation in its entirety. Consequently, in some ways this film feels like an advertisement for the other one.
Directors: Jeremy Coon and Tim Skousen
Starring: Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb