Jamie Benning may be the creator of a new kind of documentary with what he calls “filmumentaries,” a format that works its way through a movie from the beginning, cutting away from the scenes for behind-the-scenes footage, concept art, and other visuals. When that’s not happening, pieces of text and audio clips from commentaries, interviews, and other sources accompany the movie. It’s a unique experience that draws on sources old and new to create as comprehensive look at the making of the film.
Benning cut his teeth on the “Star Wars” films with “Star Wars Begins,” “Building Empire,” and “Returning to Jedi” before tackling “Raiders of the Lost Ark” with “Raiding the Lost Ark.” (I should take a moment to acknowledge Garrett Gilchrist’s “Deleted Magic,” which uses a similar approach to explore the many scenes cut from the first “Star Wars” movie and was Benning’s inspiration.)
“Raiding the Lost Ark” draws not only from recent interviews with people like director Steven Spielberg and star Harrison Ford but also the commentaries and other bonus materials from the 2003 DVD release, footage and audio clips from the original 1981 making-of special, excerpts from the 125-page transcript of the 1978 story conference, and more.
Benning even conducted interviews with Wolf Kahler, who played Colonel Dietrich, sculptor Brian Muir, sound designer Mark Mangini, and Sean Young, who auditioned for the Marion Ravenwood role. This is the first time he has brought some original interviews to the table, and they do an excellent job of fleshing out the story.
If you’re a “Raiders of the Lost Ark” fan, this 143-minute work is well worth your time on Vimeo. Benning makes his filmumentaries out of love for these movies, and it shows. He has just begun working on a “Jaws” filmumentary tentatively titled “Inside Jaws: A Filmumentary.” I can’t wait.