Fan Film, Fan Films

Diving Into The Force Among Us

trip-to-tatooine-410There aren’t many documentary fan films, but the handful that exist tend to be about fandom itself. For Star Wars buffs, Jason Wishnow’s classic Tatooine or Bust in 1997 paved the way, simply interviewing fervid fans across the U.S. as they waited to see the Special Edition re-releases. Witty and economical at 14 minutes, the flick inspired many to try their hand at documenting the fan experience, but the results were hit and miss.

First, almost all of them followed fans waiting on lines to see movies, and the only thing more boring than standing on a line for 90 minutes is watching someone stand on a line for that long. Second, given the time and effort put into them—and the fact that they were protected by copyright law—many of these semi-pro efforts became professional documentaries. As a result, over the years, there’s been DVD releases for ; ; ; George and Me; and . I own the lot of ‘em and to be honest, only the last one is enjoyable, mainly due to the larger than life personalities that emerge.

Documenting fans, then, is a thankless task, because every fan’s experience is unique. Nevertheless, Cris and Cort Macht’s feature-length effort, The Force Among Us, does an admirable job in getting it right.

Exploring fandom from as many angles as possible, the film moves nimbly across a wide spectrum of Star Wars fan communities, from toy collectors to costumers to Lego enthusiasts to folks who visit the real set locations, such as the Lars homestead in Tunisia and the snowy peaks of “Hoth” in Finse, Norway. In each case, the film lingers just long enough on each topic to be interesting without getting repetitive, creating a fun flick that’s enjoyable for both stalwarts who know about the cancelled rocket-firing Boba Fett action figure, and outsiders who think Star Wars is “that show with the Spock guy.”

While presenting plenty of zealous fans who describe the sometimes amusing lengths to which they’ve gone to add to their collections, TFAU also provides a generous helping of academics and authors who provide context, using eye-opening statistics—instead of stereotypes—to describe the typical fan. In particular, the well-spoken Dick Staub, author of , makes some fascinating points that can be appreciated regardless of one’s religious affiliation.

Late in the film, controversy gets courted when the 501st Legion, the massive international Stormtrooper costuming group, comes up. Some costumers interviewed feel the group is a wonderful creation, while others—including a few leaders within the group and an ex-trooper who was thrown out—state that it has become too bureaucratic for something that is supposed to be merely fun. To the filmmakers’ credit, the film tackles the topic evenhandedly, presenting—but never taking—sides.

Throughout, the camera work is solid and the editing is both tidy and evocative. While the flick was originally envisioned as a 10-minute fan film entry for the AtomFilms/Lucasfilm Star Wars Fan Movie Challenge (hence why it’s being reviewed here on a fan-film site), The Force Among Us is a commercial DVD release, making it an excellent pick for the Star Wars fan on your holiday shopping list. Currently, the region-free DVD is priced under 20 bucks, with free shipping anywhere in the world and a promise to get it to you by Christmas. Best of all, a portion of all sales during the holiday season go to Toys For Tots, a very worthy cause. Your pal may not be interviewed in it, but he’ll surely see himself in The Force Among Us.

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