Put on your leather jackets and grab your fedoras! /slash film festival prepared a truly special programme centred on one of the most iconic and beloved adventure film heroes, Indiana Jones. Celebrating the 35th anniversary since its release, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” will be shown on the big screen for your enjoyment and pleasure. Alongside it will be a 1980s shot-for-shot fan remake by a couple of 11 year olds, “Raiders of the Lost Ark: the Adaptation” and a documentary about these two die-hard fans, “Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made”.
“It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage”
Indiana Jones has become so well-known to us that we don’t even fully register its intricate interplay with tropes from genre classics, at the same time borrowing from and for ever changing them. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” fully embraces the legacy of 50s adventure serials (the adventure hero trope, the damsel-in-distress love interest, the cliff-hanger structure and the existence of plot holes), reimagining and redefining them. Indie is at the same time the very essence of ruggedness and masculinity, and a blubbering fool, making it up on the go. Resourceful and full of spunk, Marion is many times in need of saving but does just as much saving herself while drinking everyone under the table. And yes – without the two the Nazis would have still found the Ark and died in the end. It was something entirely new, yet completely familiar.
Its merits are numerous. Even film critic Pauline Kael, who famously wrote against the film, says “Spielberg—a master showman—can stage a movie cliché so that it has Fred Astaire’s choreographic snap to it. He transcends the clichés by sensational, whiplash editing”.
The collaboration between George Lucas and Steven Spielberg is definitely a landmark in cinema history. It gave the world one of the most instantly recognizable characters, rekindling the appeal of adventure films and series and paving the way for directors such as Quentin Tarantino to channel the films that inspired their boyhood into great pieces of cinema.
Kids do the darnest things
And to prove Steven Spielberg right, “the real movie-lovers are still children”, comes “Raiders of the Lost Ark: the Adaptation”, a shot-for-shot remake started by two boys in 1982 and completed over seven summers in a small Mississippi town. Chris Stompolos was just 11 when he approached 12 year old Eric Zala who shared his passion for Indiana Jones. The two boys together with Jayson Lamb and a total pocket-money budget of about $5,000 committed to recreating the Indiana Jones world and mythology in their own back-yards and garages.
The whole journey began after they managed to sneak in a tape recorder into a “Raiders of the Lost Ark” screening. Using this and other Indiana Jones collectibles as memory triggers, Zala started storyboarding the entire film from what he could remember (drawing an impressive total of over 600 frames) which they then used as the back-bone of their shooting process.
Sceptics may believe that an ultra-low-budget remake of “Raiders…” by some boys three decades ago could be cute for a whole 10 minutes but then lose its lustre and drag on for the remaining hour and a half. The sceptics couldn’t be more wrong. While the whole “kids do the darnest things” factor is the initial hook, the film proves to be so much more. It mixes a sense of wistfulness in seeing these kids grow, their sheer resourcefulness and dedication to their passion-project and a cliff-hanger structure in which we’re on the edge of our seats in anticipation of how they will ever pull off the next scene. (spoiler: they always do). They do have to adapt at times (the Nazi monkey becomes the Nazi puppy, for example) but other times they make small changes that actually seem to breathe new depths onto the characters (such as when Indy willingly gives Satipo the whip to swing across the pit and escape the temple instead of Satipo just reaching the whip first). Some fires have been involved (true story, during the Nepalese bar scene they almost burn the house down) and a few rows with the local police, but nothing ever stopped them, not even the ups-and-downs in their own relationship.
The story of the two childhood friends that drifted apart is itself the stuff of movies. In 2002, years after the film had been shelved, director, writer and actor Eli Roth gave a copy to Harry Knowles, in the hopes of having it shown at the Butt-Numb-a-Thon festival. When the “The Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers” wasn’t delivered on time for its screening, leaving the festival with a huge gap in its schedule, the Raiders Adaptation was there to save the day and steal the show: the audience actually booed when the film was stopped in order to show “The Two Towers”, as originally intended. This led to a whirlwind of festival appearances for Stompolos and Zala, a meeting with Steven Spielberg himself and a cult following that persuaded the now middle-aged Chris and Eric to quit their jobs and try to prove themselves as filmmakers in their own right.
This entire rollercoaster ride of a story is documented in “Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made”, an uplifting conclusion to a 30 year long odyssey that sparked new beginnings.