Cinequest 2023 – Star Wars Kid

If you were using the internet in the early 2000’s you probably had a first-hand experience in viewing the “Star Wars Kid.” The video portrayed a young teen boy going through vigorous motions with a rod, reproducing a lightsaber battle. It was likely the first “viral video” and certainly launched many remixings, imitations, and parodies. Even if you weren’t on the internet, you would likely have seen it on the news, late night shows.

It was a big thing, in more ways than one.

And so you should approach this documentary movie know that there is actually very little Star Wars content here. Admittedly, the subject of the video now claims he was not a fan. That this was just a test video, never meant to be shared. So not much about Star Wars pheonomena. This is a film about the advent of today’s internet. The origin of today’s memes and viral videos. But mostly about the damage that these things, even unintentionally, can have on the innocent.

It’s worth saying a second time, this is not a film about Star Wars fandom. It is a film about ramifications, damage, and dealing with unwanted notoriety. If you are looking for insights into the adventures of the Skywalker family, this isn’t going to scratch that itch.

It is, however a fine and thought provoking film. It details and personalizes the unexpected and uncontrolled violations of innocence that the new internet accidentally created. Using this singular event, it examines how and to what extent how we’ve adapted to this global connection. And to some extent lets us reflect on how some willingly, willfully, embrace this effect for their own benefit.

Like most documentaries, it’s promarily composed of interviews. People involved in the distribution and promotion of early internet videos bookend segments wtih the now-adult “Star Wars Kid”, and what effect the video had on them. We do start with Ghyslain Raza, the eponomous Star Wars Kid. He is a French Canadian who as a teen filmed himself to make some test video to debug a problem in a high school video project. That simple act accidentally made him an international celebrity. It also exposed him to bullying, the abuses of the press, and hardships for his parents. Now, years after, he’s still dealing with the effect all this had on his early life and the residual effects he still feels.

In a masterful stroke, director Mathieu Fournier set much of this in a school classroom where Raza was attending and shot his video. The interviewers here are current students of the school, people who never experienced a world without instantanious global communications. The juxtaposition, a quiet and thoughtful mingling of both worlds, is brilliant, and at times quite touching.

Overall, this film creates is a fine and quiet discussion of many issues we deal with today. Not quite cautionary, not hyperbolic, simply thoughtful and perhaps useful in its examination.

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Note: This film is in French (with subtitles) and English. Basically French Canadians speak French, except when speaking to English speakers.

Ric Bretschneider
August 10, 2023

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