"Star Wars Kid" was a video from 2002, in which Canadian high schooler Ghyslain Raza filmed himself earnestly swinging a golf ball receiver as if it were Darth Maul's lightsaber. It was never meant for public consumption, but after the video got around his school — leading to much mockery and bullying — it became a viral sensation through P2P filesharing, even without the help of YouTube. People made remixes and mashups and homages and, all the while, Raza was the butt of the joke.
Now, a new documentary sheds light on Raza's experience as an unfortunate pseudo-pioneer of social media harassment in the age of internet memes.
From Montreal's CTV News:
The documentary began when Fournier and Jonathan Trudel approached Raza about using his story as a starting point of their project that goes well beyond Raza or his family's story.
"I would not have been interested in a documentary strictly focused on what happened to me or take a melodramatic tone," said Raza, who was never a Star Wars fan. "To go beyond the story, to go into reflection, to make something useful out of it, that's what convinced me that it would be a good project to be a part of."
The documentary examines how the video wound up on the Internet, became the first viral video and what effect it has had on Raza and his family. At the same time, it examines the broader online culture, social media and the world ruled by the geeks.
In the documentary, Raza speaks to teens at his former school, who talk about constantly being on or near their phones and on social media well aware of their online presence.
Here's a little more info on the film from Andy Baio:
Since the "Star Wars Kid" video and its remixes exploded online in 2003, Ghyslain Raza has refused all interview requests, except for the 10th anniversary of the video's release in 2013 for an interview with a French-Canadian journalist for L'actualité magazine, which was translated into English for partner magazine Maclean's.
But over the last couple years, he's quietly worked with a group of documentary filmmakers to tell his story for the first time, in his own words. The full-length film was released today in French and English, as you'd expect from Quebec-based filmmakers. In English, it's being released as Star Wars Kid: The Rise of the Digital Shadows, but I'm partial to the French title, Dans l'ombre du Star Wars Kid, which translates to "In the Shadow of the Star Wars Kid." It feels much more fitting to the story they told.
You can watch Star Wars Kid: The Rise of the Digital Shadows for free via the National Film Board of Canada.