Raiders!: The Documentary
What were you doing in 1982? It’s a trick question. It would make you 34 years old if had you been born that year. You would’ve been two-years-old when Ghostbusters came out. Raiders of the Lost Ark came out in 1981.
In that fateful year in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, a bunch of kids — barely in their teens — began a shot-for-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark, spending their youth devoted to this project. By 1989, they had finished their visionary, albeit cheaply-made, reproduction (minus the airplane fight sequence where “Indy fights the muscular Nazi amidst whirling propellers”). All in all, they spent $5,000 on their opus.
People grow up, friends separate, and so it was in the case of the three principal filmmakers, Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala, and Jayson Lamb. After a screening in an ad hoc auditorium in 1989, the friends lost touch with each other and for the most part swept the sweet memories of childhood under a forgotten carpet. Gone was the moment when they nearly burnt down one of their parent’s house shooting a scene where a bad guy catches on fire.
Fast forward to 2002 when film director Eli Roth, who had a faded second-generation VHS copy, showed a segment at the 2002 Butt-Numb-A-Thon, a popular annual event in Austin hosted by movie maven Harry Knowles.
Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made documents the history of this project, as well as the reuniting of the trio to complete the film. Raising money to actually blow up a real plane only leads to the usual pitfalls of movie making. After raising nearly four times the original budget, and having a replica airplane constructed the location is inundated with nine days of rain.
The documentary Raiders! takes viewers into the mindset of trying to achieve your dreams no matter what obstacles arise. There’s actual suspense as the money for the re-shoot and time start to evaporate. Plus, the original trio is at times at odds with each other over the aesthetic of what they are trying to accomplish.
Anyone who has ever had a dream will instantly cotton to this documentary. Goals are realized with as much force as they are crushed; first kisses are realized and consigned to oblivion.
The documentary Raiders! will screen in a double feature with Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation at the Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park this Saturday, June 11 at 7 pm. Eric Zala and Chris Strompolos will be in attendance.
The documentary Raiders! subsequently will open for a full week run at Vintage Park on June 17.
— Michael Bergeron