CINEQUEST FILM FESTIVAL 2023 REVIEW! Ghyslain Raza, aka “The Star Wars Kid,” was the unwilling star of one of the internet’s first viral videos. What started as a school project quickly brought the young kid hundreds of millions of views and a vulnerable experience with internet culture in its infancy. Most of us have probably seen the video at some point, whether it was being homaged on South Park, riffed by talk show hosts, as a plot point on Arrested Development, or maybe even the original video from 2003. But, those millions of viewers never got to know the story behind the viral video. Written by director Mathieu Fournier and Jonathan Trudel, Star Wars Kid: The Rise of the Digital Shadows reveals the untold tale behind the infamous “Star Wars Kid.”
Raza’s story begins with a simple video he made to help his friend in A/V class in high school. Without his knowledge, Raza’s classmates posted the video online, making it ground zero for one of the most recognizable memes in internet history. Instant stardom and heavy rejection follow as the video transports our subject from everyday life into a world of cyberbullying and unwanted fame. Now 20 years removed from the original post, Raza seeks to create a dialogue of empathy in the age of social media.
“…the untold tale behind the infamous ‘Star Wars Kid.'”
Star Wars Kid: The Rise of the Digital Shadows perfectly captures the early internet ethos that thrust “Star Wars Kid” to monitors worldwide. The documentary enlists a gallery of pop culture gurus, meme historians, and internet experts to analyze the significance of the meme and the broader Internet culture in the early 2000s. Fournier clearly understands cyberculture from a modern and historical sense, weaving the film’s themes as relevant now as they were in 2003.
Fournier and Raza discuss each theme with passion and empathy. The pair seek conversation over lectures diving into cyberbullying, internet safety, and consent in the age of social media. Each topic is handled well, though with so many messages hitting at once, sometimes the structure gets a little lost in the shuffle. Raza’s back-and-forth with students in a classroom is great for setting up the themes but does not deliver the same nuance as his other conversations. Despite these few hangups, the message of creating a better generation of digital citizens is evident throughout, climaxing with poignant clarity.
Raza’s goal is to help the world reflect on ourselves as people and who we are online. Star Wars Kid: The Rise of the Digital Shadows shows the highs and lows of self-reflection, featuring Raza’s joyous acceptance by the nerd community at Comic-Con to the intense rejection of the comment sections in the web’s dark corners. Those looking for a fun stroll down memory lane through the filter of a young internet should look elsewhere. However, those wishing to reflect and learn the unseen story of the Star Wars Kid will have plenty to gain from this insightful documentary.
Star Wars Kid: The Rise of the Digital Shadows screened at the 2023 Cinequest Film Festival.
"…seeks to create a dialogue of empathy in the age of social media."