We Are Wizards

by James McNally on March 5, 2008 · 1 comment

in Documentaries,Film Festivals,SXSW

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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