Raiders and childhood

21:19, May 28 2013

I just read a lovely book. It is called Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made.

It is basically the story of a group of kids in America who were so blown away by Raiders of the Lost Ark they decided to remake it in their back yard. Over nearly a decade of summers in the 1980s, a core group of three friends enlisted schoolmates, parents and anyone they could cajole into helping them remake Raiders shot for shot. There is a great Vanity Fair account of the story here.

After seven or eight years they finished the film and embarked on their adult lives, only for the film to take on a life of its own and become a cult hit that helped them fulfil their childhood dreams.

It is a lovely story and one that anyone who grew up in the 1980s will recognise. It feels like a mix of The Goonies and Son of Rambow.

It reminded me of so many childhood memories. You see, as a child, I also made movies. Admittedly, not quite with the same scale and ambition as these guys - I certainly didn't remake any feature films - but I did make a series of short films when I was a kid.


I have them here somewhere. I transferred them from VHS to DV tape a few years back. I should root out the DV tape, itself a defunct format now, and stick it on YouTube. There are some funny films in there. One is about a man attacked and chased around his house by a killer electric shaver and another is a half-finished adaptation of the Roald Dahl short story The Ratcatcher. There's another one where a fruit bowl attacks a group of people at a party, picking them off one by one. It's all pretty embarrassing juvenilia, to be honest.

But reading Raiders sparked so many memories of the friends I made making those silly short films and the rapture I felt when leaving Spielberg's 80s movies like ET and Temple of Doom. It's very much a story about the generation that grew up in the 1980s, watching Spielberg movies, running around the local woods with a video camera the size of a rocket launcher and painstakingly editing those films by linking two VCRs together and making sure you press record on one and play on the other at exactly the right moment.

Even then, every edit would have a little wiggle that would wash down the screen like a mini rainbow. Man, it was hard to make a movie before laptops and digital cameras. That is what makes what these guys did with Raiders so impressive.

If you grew up loving movies in the 1980s and were as enchanted as I was with VCRs and video cameras, you will love this book.

I've just realised this is my second blog in a row reminiscing about the age of the video cassette. I've noticed people online referring to the resurgence of VHS recently as well. And then there is this documentary about people collecting VHS. The other day I found myself watching a You Tube video of someone playing a tape on my first VCR. There's definitely something in the air.

I think my generation has got to the age where we are starting to look back on our childhoods and reclaim the things we treasured from them. There's a generation heading for its 40s that goes all dewy-eyed over a top loader and that desire is starting to make its mark on popular culture.

But, to be honest, it's nice to see a nostalgic cultural shift that is not geared exlusively to baby boomers. It's about time we had a bit of nostalgia that wasn't all about how 1960s pop culture was the best and everything that followed was a pale imitation.

Generation X grew up in the age of the videocassette and we are reaching back into our childhoods for a hit of nostalgia.

The Raiders book feels like another expression of that nostalgic desire. And that's no bad thing.

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