Heartland Film Festival: “Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made”

By Bob Bloom

Movies can elicit a myriad of emotions and feelings in viewers.

They can push people to anger, make them laugh or cry and even inspire them.

That was the effect of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” on a group of boys in 1982 in a rural Mississippi community. The exploits of Indiana Jones so impressed the boys that they set out to film their own scene-by-scene remake of the feature.

Every summer for seven years, they accomplished their goal, filming all but one scene from the movie.

The making of that final sequence 30 years later is the crux of “Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made,” a wistful documentary about a trio of men who reunite so they can complete a childhood dream — and in the process, heal old wounds and, for a moment, recapture their youth.

Honestly, most people would look at these men with skepticism, a bit of derision and a dose of pity.

After all, who wouldn’t scratch their heads as these friends deplete their savings, jeopardize their jobs and push their families and helpers to the breaking point to build a replica of the 75-foot Flying Wing in a backwoods mud pit, which, in that final scene, blows up.

Producers-directors Jeremy Coon and Tim Skousen are impressed and bewildered by Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb, as they obsess, fight and work diligently to fill a hole from their childhoods.

Zala was the director and also portrayed villain Dr. Rene Belloq, Strompolos was Indy and Lamb was the cinematographer and film editor and developed many of the special effects. Lamb also is the documentary’s focal point for tension, as he believes that he has not received the recognition due him for his work.

Others in the story include the parents of the filmmakers who explain why they let the young boys set fires, be dragged behind trucks and perform some rather dangerous stunts.

And while these soap opera-like subplots are interesting, they are not as enthralling as the determination of the now-adult boys to finish what they started more than 30 years ago.

You watch “Raiders!” shaking your head in astonishment, questioning the sanity of the filmmakers as children — and adults.

Yet, by the finale, you want to give them a standing ovation for overcoming all obstacles — manmade and otherwise — and fulfilling their dream.

In its own way, “Raiders!” is the greatest compliment to the Steven Spielberg-George Lucas original as it shows how one movie can motivate the minds and imaginations of filmgoers.

Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at bobbloomjc@gmail.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.

3 stars out of 4
Not rated

For showtimes and ticket information about the Heartland Film Festival, visit: http://heartlandfilm.org/festival/

“Raiders!” will be shown at the following times and Indianapolis theaters at the Heartland Film Festival:
4:30 p.m. Sunday, Castleton Square
8 p.m. Tuesday, Wheeler Arts Community Theatre
3 p.m. Wednesday, Castleton Square
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24, Traders Point

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