A film that I was really looking forward to at SXSW this year was the documentary Raiders!, which is based on one of the stranger true stories that you’ll hear. In the summer of 1982, a group of friends in Mississippi decided that they were going to remake, shot-for-shot, Raiders of the Lost Ark, which had been released the summer before. These three friends spent the rest of their childhoods making their adaptation of Raiders, and it became an underground hit that came to the masses in the early 2000’s, and even Steven Spielberg himself was inspired and impressed by what these boys had spent a good chunk of their lives on. There was one thing that was missing from the adaptation, and it was the recreation of the plane sequence in the film when Indy fights the big muscled Nazi guy and when the plane explodes, with Indy and Marion fleeing just in time.
This is what directors Jeremy Coon and Tim Skousen document in this entertaining, inspiring, heartfelt and hilarious documentary about friendship, passion, and doing what you love to do. Raiders! is a terrific geek film that combines all of what I just said into a perfect and really stellar documentary. The documenting of the filming this one last scene is mixed in with talking heads that range from filmmaker Eli Roth, to geek icons and writers like Harry Knowles, Chris Gore, Tim League, and even Jonathan Rhys-Davies is interviewed in one of the more memorable parts of the film. The film chronicles the sometimes rocky friendship between Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala, and Jayson Lamb, with Chris and Eric having a falling out over a girl toward the end of filming in the 80’s (as many teenage friendships often end).
But to these boys, they didn’t do this adaptation to top the original. They were either doing this film to be with friends, escape troubled households, and so on. These boys weren’t the most popular growing up, and this was always the one thing that they could come back to every summer. In a weird way, the actual adaptation plays a little like Boyhood, in that you watch these three boys grow up on-screen from tweens to teens, and then later to middle-aged men in the airplane sequence. Also, that whole section of watching how these men are able to craft this airplane sequence with an actual crew and money being put into the sequence is fascinating, as they battle mother nature, a giant plane replica that often doesn’t work, and many more in the middle of Mississippi.
The film had its world premiere at the festival, so I don’t know if Raiders! has any distribution at this point, but I pray that it does soon, because I fell in love with this documentary. I fell in love not because I’m a fan of Raiders of the Lost Ark (it’s still my second favorite film ever made) but also as a fan of movies and filmmaking. Two-thirds of the trio, Chris and Eric, were at the screening earlier today, and these men are probably some of the bravest and most dedicated filmmakers that the world is just discovering, and hopefully with the release of this film, more and more people will be able to discover their journey and learn about this bizarre and fascinating adaptation. Now, I just need to get my hands on a copy of the adaptation.