I’m an unlikely suspect to go to a midnight screening of a film such as The People Vs. George Lucas. This was clear off the bat as I looked around at the crowd of 20- and 30-somethings sporting Star Wars hoodies and chatting about their expectations for this doc on the subject of their favorite thing in the world. I, on the other hand, have never seen a Star Wars movie.
I was probably the only person in the Hot Docs crowd who had not at least seen the first three films (four, five and six, that is). When the doc started it suddenly hit me that I might not understand a word the people on screen would say. I’ve experience Star Wars talk before – all Jedis and Nerf Herders – and just zoned it out in the past, but now I would have to try to translate this, or nudge my neighbor to help me out.
Thankfully that wasn’t necessary. While I may not have been one of the audience members laughing in recognition as the doc tackled the “Han shot first” debate, the doc by Alexandre O. Philippe touches a nerve with anyone who has seen their pop cultural love marred by its creator.
In no way a diatribe against Lucas, The People Vs. George Lucas uses interviews with fans to critique the director’s choices and debate who this work that is so much a part of the public realm ultimately belongs to, the fans or the director. Criticisms included questioning how Lucas could go from a young hippie who defended the preservation of Black and White cinema over colorization to a businessman who reedits his own classics. And one who has, so far, not released the originals that his audience demands. One fan likened the changes Lucas made to the original three movies to da Vinci trying to change the original Mona Lisa. It’s unlikely, even if he were alive, that anyone would let him do it.
The film, which debuted at SXSW and also screened at Brazil’s International Documentary Festival It’s All True before coming to Hot Docs, is the story of Star Wars fans’ love/hate relationship with Lucas for the changes he made to their childhood memories through both the reedits and the new saga. However, despite anything the doc faults the filmmaker for, it also documents the countless number of fan-films and Star Wars re-dos that fans have created over the years, all of which Lucas has left alone, despite any copyright concerns.
In the end, the doc is a chance for Jedi-lovers to get together and bitch a little. But it was clear during the Q&A after the film that this audience still loves Star Wars, and there’s nothing Lucas can do to change that.