As "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" releases to DVD, a small documentary--shot badly on consumer video--makes its way to a few theatrical screens. "A Galaxy Far, Far Away" is just over an hour of pure fanaticism. From the release of the original "Star Wars" in 1977 right through to the premiere of "Phantom Menace," the imprimatur "Star Wars" has been ubiquitous. The key to its lasting popularity is its fans. For everyone from the ordinary filmgoing sci-fi fan to the costumed conventionite knowledgeable in the ways of The Force, "Star Wars" is part film franchise, part hobbyist diversion and part religion. This neat little documentary, despite its many technical failings (including the filmmakers forgetting to turn on the mic on during several interviews), captures that spirit with the sincerest quality of any film of its type, including the excellent "Trekkies," a more sophisticated
doc about the Star Trek phenomenon. For the most part, director Tariq Jalil and his small crew follow the 42-day vigil of dedicated fans as they wait on line for the premiere of "Episode One." It is a proud geek paradise, where those who pose the question, "Why would anyone stand in line 42 days to see a movie?" are dismissed as one who does not know the power of The Force--or at least filmmaker George Lucas' gift for archetypal storytelling. They also attend "Star Wars" conventions interviewing attendees dressed as characters (the attendees, not the filmmakers) from each of the films in the series, including the (then) yet-to-be-released "Phantom Menace." Lastly, they capture several spontaneous interviews with celebrities, including Joe Pesci, Andy Garcia, Samuel Jackson and Meat Loaf Aday, who seem to be attending some sort of charity golf tournament. They quiz the slightly suspicious celebs about what "Star Wars" means to them, which, for the most part, is nothing, though they offer well-delivered platitudes, perhaps in case Lord Lucas sees this thing.
On the other hand, several dedicated fans read poetry composed in alien tongues, engage in well choreographed light saber duels and spend small fortunes on memorabilia, including life-sized replicas of R2 units and Hans Solo standees. It's all in there. Nutty zealots dedicated to a philosophy found in cinema that they love. And there's something kinda wonderful about that.
Starring Meat Loaf Aday, Joe Pesci, Roger Corman and Andy Garcia. Directed and written by Tariq Jalil. Produced by Terry Tocantins, Biagio Messina, Joke Fincioen and Tariq Jalil. A Cinema Guild release. Documentary. Unrated. Running time: 64 min.