A Jones for Indiana

It's the Littlest-Blockbuster-That-Could. The notorious fan-made remake of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' rides into Anthology Film Archives.

The art world and avant-garde film have produced their own remakes as well. Pierre Huyghe cast John Wojtowicz, the real-life bank robber who inspired Sidney Lumet's 1975 Dog Day Afternoon, for his 1999 video installation The Third Memory, joining him in split-screen against re-edits of Al Pacino's portrayal of his story. The most careful adaptation has been Elisabeth Subrin's Shulie, a precise 1997 remake of an obscure Chicago student documentary about feminist writer Shulamith Firestone, made in 1967 when Firestone was still an undergraduate, prior to writing her influential tome The Dialectic of Sex. Including subtle deviations from its original (a Starbucks cup placed on purpose in one shot, for example), Subrin's film becomes a conceptual riddle on the nature of historical truth. In the same decade, video artists Cecelia Doughtery and Leslie Singer created postmodern pixelvision remakes of works like Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and the early reality-TV show An American Family, recasting the stories with their queer compatriots. More recently, in 2002, Los Angeles artist Michele O'Marah remade 1983's Valley Girl with minimal sets and a thirtysomething cast, adding a poignant layer of adult pathos to the original teen flick's New Wave insouciance.

From school-bus meetings to Speilberg's office: "purist" filmmakers Jayson Lamb, Chris Strompolos, and Eric Zala
Rolling Boulder Films
From school-bus meetings to Speilberg's office: "purist" filmmakers Jayson Lamb, Chris Strompolos, and Eric Zala

Though The Adaptation has no pretensions to such artistic depth, it creates an unintentional disjunction between the innocence of its all-kid production and the unwittingly adult undertaking they literally grow into—in the course of the video, we watch the cast shoot up from squeaky-voiced children to high school seniors. Perhaps this is why it's affecting viewers in ways its makers wouldn't have expected. At screenings, Zala says, they're "approached invariably by folks our age, who say basically: 'I understand. I played Indiana Jones in my backyard with a bull whip and hat, but you guys did it.' One guy had tears in his eyes-—because, he said, 'you kind of did it for all of us.' " A touching story, but slightly disturbing as well: It's a vision of Hollywood as a never-ending existential loop—children playing at being adults, and adults never quite emerging from childhood dreams.

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