Who owns Star Wars, George Lucas or the fans?
The short answer now, of course, is… Disney… and maybe J.J. Abrams. Given the explosion of franchising and merchandising begun by the coming tidal wave of new Star Wars films under Disney’s aegis, it will someday be difficult to convince youngsters that things were ever otherwise.
But in my day [insert old man wagging finger here] the critical debate was between Lucas and the fans. I’m pretty sure the fans won. The world-building of Star Wars will outlast its creator and its first couple generations of devoted viewers, and the grand tradition of Star Wars fan films—begun almost immediately after the first Star Wars’ release with the fond parody “Hardware Wars”—will live on. Star Wars fan films even have their own annual awards program.
There are many micro-genres of Star Wars fan film: Anime, Silent, Crowd-sourced, Action Figure, etc. Today we bring you perhaps the best example in the Documentary category, a “Complete Filmumentary” by filmmaker Jamie Benning. Although presented here in order of the first three Star Wars movies, this stellar example of fan craft and devotion actually began in 2006 with the film right above, Building Empire, which offers over two hours of “video clips, audio from cast and crew, alternate angles, reconstructed scenes, text facts and insights into the development and creation of The Empire Strikes Back.
Next, in 2007, came Returning to Jedi, another exhaustive presentation of outtakes, behind-the-scenes moments, audio commentary, technical details, and trivia from the first trilogy’s final film. Finally, in 2011, Benning completed his fan documentary trilogy with Star Wars Begins at the top. “If you’ve never seen the deleted scenes of Jabba the Hutt or Biggs Darklighter on Tatooine, or heard David Prowse saying Vader’s dialogue,” says the film’s press release, “then you will get a real kick out of this. Many reviews and comments have centered on the fact that it’s like watching your favourite movie but from an entirely different perspective.”
It’s also at times like watching what Star Wars might look like in an alternate universe. Some deleted scenes and early demo footage show us plot points and characters we never knew existed. In Star Wars Begins, for example, we see an early black and white silent edit, known as the “Lost Cut,” and featuring a droid named “Treadwell” who resembles Short Circuit’s Johnny 5. As fan films demonstrate, again and again into seeming eternity, the Star Wars universe is infinitely malleable—despite constant bickering over canon—and offers endless riches for imaginative plunder. And for that we’ll always have the films’ original creators to thank. Benning’s painstakingly-edited documentaries show us the incredible amount of work that went into building the world of Star Wars, a world that shows no signs of ever coming to an end.
Jenning’s filmumentaries will be added to our list of Free Documentaries, a subset of our collection 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, Documentaries & More.
The Making of The Empire Strikes Back Showcased on Long-Lost Dutch TV Documentary
Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers Break Down Star Wars as an Epic, Universal Myth
Hardware Wars: The Mother of All Star Wars Fan Films (and the Most Profitable Short Film Ever Made)
Star Wars Uncut: The Epic Fan Film
Freiheit, George Lucas’ Short Student Film About a Fatal Run from Communism (1966)
Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness
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