07th July 2010, in Blog (1 Comments)
Recently, I was contacted by Mark Edlitz, the creator/director of a new film called “Jedi Junkies”; a documentary about Star Wars fanatics and the often, non-conformist lives they lead in pursuit of their great passion for the series.
Now, I’ve seen quite a few films that delve into the same mysterious obsessions of the Star Wars junky, but this film, in particular, hit a real deep nerve for me. My own O.C.D. for collecting little plastic replicas of the characters in the Star Wars movies began as a child and blossomed, much to the chagrin of my wife and family, into a full-blown life-consuming obsession as an adult. Thankfully, I was able to gracefully bow out of the collecting game, but as this film will attest, Star Wars is still, and will always remain a huge influence in the lives of its die-hard fans.
“Jedi Junkies” investigates three overarching themes of Star Wars fandom. First off, we are introduced to the “lifestyle” fans; those that attend the various large conventions around the country, dressing in elaborate costumes, and dedicating there free time to the study of the “Jedi Art” of lightsaber combat. Secondly, to fans that create their own fan-fiction and fan-films; one going so far as to build a full-scale replica of the Millenium Falcon in his backyard. And lastly, to those who, like a bountyhunter, relentlessly hunt down and collect any-and-all forms of Star Wars memorabilia and merchandise.
The first theme, at least to my own biased look at Star Wars geeks, was entertaining, but not for everyone. “Lifers” are easily misunderstood. They fight a valiant skirmish for acceptance, but often become targets of ridicule. As a fan myself, I can empathize with their unbridled love for the series. But, unlike these lovers of “cosplay” and community involvement, I, for the most part, kept my obsession a closely guarded secret. I’m not proud to say it. So, a hardy “kudos” to those fans that are, “out of the closet,” per se. You can’t help but, or at least I would beg you to, give a great deal of respect to those fans who dedicate so much of their lives in pursuit of making the fictitious Star Wars Universe into something tangible; something that can be experienced and lived everyday.
The second theme, I have mixed-feelings about. To create something with your own two hands, especially from your heart, and even more so a piece of “art”, is always a commendable undertaking. I place the word art in quotations, simply because I’ve seen many a fan-film in my day, and they run the gamut. Some, you could truly say are great technical and artistic achievements, well deserving of a place in the Star Wars lexicon. Others… Not so much. The featured piece I really loved was the “Chad Vader” series. Fan-films, by nature have great license to adhere to, or not adhere to, the established rules of the Star Wars universe. The ones I find myself gravitating to most frequently are the ones that deviate completely; taking a comical, ironic, and self-deprecating view of the series. “Jedi Junkies” takes a look at both these genres.
The final theme addressed in “Jedi Junkies” is the one obviously closest to my heart, so I apologize in advance if my review seems skewed towards this part of the film. While watching the interviews with the other Star Wars collectors, I found myself reminiscing on my own collecting-journey, remembering the “high” of the “hunt” and the crushing defeat of a missed opportunity. I have to say, if I were a weaker man, I may have shed a tear. A single one, but a tear nonetheless. To a collector, there is a very fine line that is being walked every day. On one side is a deeply rooted love for the spirit of the Star Wars series and a need to capture that part, that feeling, that essence of the film, and hold on to it for posterity. On the other side, is an impossibly steep slide, down into the depression of an O.C.D. bender. Yes… When you’re in the middle of it, it means that much.
“Jedi Junkies” exposes the lives of collectors in a unique way that I had not seen before. On the one hand, we hear the impassioned rhetoric of collectors, justifying their obsession with tear-jerking explanations of childhood infatuation with the Original Trilogy, and the inevitable birth of a collection that grew from that celluloid love affair. On the other hand, we listen to psychoanalysis about the human phenomenon of “collecting” from Dr. Linda Papadopoulos. I was transfixed. This back and forth juxtaposition of the filmic-fantasy with the harsh reality of having, literally, a house full of toys was fascinating. One collector is heard to say, “…if you’ve never started collecting…don’t. If you have started, then stop!” It’s this honesty that was most touching for me. This was my own life for over 10 years, so I have a lot of compassion for this type of fandom. “Jedi Junkies” brilliant insight into the lives of these particular Star Wars fans is well worth a viewing.
“Jedi Junkies” is a great way, for the curious and voyeuristic, to get an intimate look into the lives of true fans of the Star Wars series. If you have a loved one, friend, coworker, anyone that you suspect has been touched by these movies, “Jedi Junkies” provides a terrific insight into how to better understand that passion.
© 2010, Joshua Budich. All artwork, and images of artwork are property of Joshua Budich. All rights reserved.