“Steven Spielberg needed twenty million dollars to make RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK; my dad needed his allowance”

In 1982, three 11-year old children from the American south embarked on a quest. Their mission was to create a complete, faithful, shot-for-shot remake of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK with their home movie camera. It would take them seven summers, every spare nickle, and next-to-no adult supervision, but by the time they were eighteen they had a finished product that evoked Steven Spielberg’s classic adventure with remarkable accuracy.

Well, almost.

See, the gang never could figure out a way to recreate the airfield explosion, so for many years, that became something of an asterisk on this feat of filmmaking.

Then twenty-five years after they first rolled camera, the now-adults launched a crowd-funding campaign, hoping to get the band back together and complete this unfinished symphony of theirs.

But can you ever go back to Cairo after you’ve climbed out of a nuked fridge?

As John Rhys-Davies explains it in the doc, the boys mission to finish their film echoes one of the core conceits of the Indiana Jones Saga – the search for treasure. It evokes journeys that take us halfway around the world, and involve tedious sifting through the dirt. Think about it – when we’re young, we’re most likely to waste our time on frivolous activities, time-wasters, and other sorts of instant gratification. We aren’t usually predisposed to spend hours on end looking to unleash something special on to the world.

But then one needs to consider the nostalgia involved.

Have you ever gone back to watch a movie you loved as a child with adult eyes and realized that it’s not everything you once believed it to be? RAIDERS! is like that. Not to suggest that RAIDERS OF THE LOST ASK has diminished through the passage of time – perish the thought! It’s only to suggest that this film is a gentle reminder that nostalgia is nice, but sometimes the past should stay in the past. As we watch these people try to revisit their childhood, we are made keenly aware that they aren’t children anymore. Sometimes watching them try to finish what they started is like sitting across from a guy calling up his high school crush to see if she wants to get a drink.

The key is that most of the subjects involved realize this. Thus RAIDERS! plays less like the jubilant beginning of a whole new adventure, than it does the melancholy end of an ambitious voyage.

We all have our own Ark of The Covenant…our own One-Eyed Willy…our own Maltese Falcon. Some of us are meant to find these treasures, some of us aren’t. What RAIDERS! wants us to remember is that it’s not about whether we find them or not, but what sort of people we turn into along the way.


RAIDERS! plays at Hot Docs 2015 tomorrow, Sunday April 26th – 9:30pm at Hart House. It plays again at TIFF Bell Lightbox on Tuesday April 28th – 4pm, and finally at The Revue on Saturday May 2nd – 2:30pm (official website)