We Are Wizards

We Are Wizards
Editor’s Note: I’ve decided to begin post­ing my reviews of films screen­ing at SXSW early, hope­fully help­ing any­one attend­ing make some decisions about what to see. We Are Wizards is screen­ing on Saturday March 8 at 1:45pm in the Austin Convention Center. It also screens Tuesday March 11 at 11:00am and Friday March 14 at 1:45pm at the Paramount.

We Are Wizards (2008, Director: Josh Koury): I’ll have to start with some­what of a dis­claimer. I am not a wiz­ard, by which I mean to say that I am not one of the obsess­ive fans of Harry Potter who inhabit this film. That being said, I was expect­ing some­thing a bit more wide-ran­ging from the descrip­tion of the film on the SXSW web site: “An enter­tain­ing and com­pre­hens­ive por­trait of the pas­sion­ate cul­ture of Harry Potter fans.” Instead Josh Koury fol­lows a few of the odder fans of the books and films, with a spe­cial focus on bands inspired by the world of Harry and his friends. “Wizard rock” is an admit­tedly nar­row sub­cul­ture, and most of these bands are simply not very good. Some, like the two broth­ers who make up Harry and the Potters, don’t seem to take them­selves too ser­i­ously, but many of the oth­ers seem a bit delu­sional. I found the Hungarian Horntails espe­cially worthy of a few wiz­ard curses of my own. Consisting of 8-year-old Darious and his younger brother Holden, the band screech “punk” songs like “Which Witch is Which” and “Kill the Basilisk”. Though I’m delighted the boys have a cre­at­ive out­let, I found their par­ents’ adu­la­tion dis­turb­ing, and sus­pect that drag­ging their kids all over the coun­try to play “wiz­ard rock” seems tied in to ful­filling their own musical ambi­tions.

Another major sub­ject of the film is car­toon­ist Brad Neely, who gained notori­ety by record­ing his own fan com­ment­ary for the first Harry Potter film. Unfortunately, he spoke it in a really annoy­ing voice, which he also uses through­out the film. Yet another unsym­path­etic sub­ject is Carol Matriciana, a Christian woman who is opposed to the books and films because she believes they pro­mote witch­craft. But just like every one of the fans, she’s used Harry Potter to gain some atten­tion and to add some mean­ing to her life.

We Are Wizards

Perhaps the sanest of the fans fea­tured is Heather Lawver, who also hap­pens to be the sis­ter of a friend of mine. Heather began a fan site while in her teens and promptly received a threat­en­ing let­ter from Warner Brothers, the stu­dio behind the Harry Potter films. Undeterred, Heather star­ted a grass­roots boy­cott of all Harry Potter mer­chand­ise except the books (her beef was with Warner Brothers, not J.K. Rowling). Through this pro­cess, she not only learned to express her­self cre­at­ively and con­nect to other fans, but she learned lots of legal stuff as well as the skills needed to be a polit­ical act­iv­ist. Bizarrely, though, the film­makers end Heather’s story by show­ing her look­ing at Ferraris and explain­ing that she’s not really into Harry Potter any­more, but wants to become a race car driver. I found that dir­ect­orial choice odd.

There are a few other “talk­ing heads” in the film, includ­ing Henry Jenkins, Co-Director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT, who will be a key­note speaker at this year’s SXSW Interactive con­fer­ence. Overall, though, this is not a stand­ard talk­ing head doc­u­ment­ary, but more of a film for fans by fans. I thought it a little too nar­rowly-focused and found far too many of the sub­jects unsym­path­etic, even annoy­ing. But what do I know, right? I’m a Muggle.

Official site of the film


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One Response to We Are Wizards

  1. James McNally says:

    The film opens in New York City on Friday November 14th. A roundup of other crit­ical opin­ion can be found on David Hudson’s Greencine Daily

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