By Pete Vonder Haar | March 9, 2008

There’s no denying the cultural impact of the Harry Potter universe. Both J.K. Rowling’s novels and the Warner Bros. movie adaptations have grossed billions of dollars worldwide and ignited debate about, among other things, whether something so monstrously popular can actually be considered serious literature.

And those are just some mainstream examples. A whole undercurrent of Harry Potter fandom exists across the world, from “wizard rock” bands like Harry and the Potters or Draco and the Malfoys to online fansites such as the Leaky Cauldron to the improvisational “reimagining” of the cinematic efforts by the likes of Brad Neely, it’s a colorful and oft-times bizarre world, and director Josh Khoury captures it admirably is his new documentary “We Are Wizards.”

First up are the bands. The most successful one depicted in the film is Harry and the Potters, the creation of brothers Joe and Paul DeGeorge, who perform at libraries and sing about what a drag it is to listen to Cho talk about her dead boyfriend Cedric. Styles vary widely between groups. H&tPs are obvious They Might Be Giants devotees, while the toddler Hungarian Horntails are best described as preteen punk. There’s even a death metal variant, The Order of Merlin, who elicit interesting reactions from an elementary school crowd. It’s insider humor, to be sure, but the fans eat it up.

Leaky Cauldron webmaster Melissa Anneli also discusses her site’s success, while fellow webmaster Heather Lawver discusses Potter War, the movement she started (at age 16) to convince Warner Bros. to relax its draconian (heh) intellectual property policies. Finally, there’s Neely, whose homemade (and f*****g hilarious) audio commentary to “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” led to some paranoid adventures of his own.

Khoury never demonizes his subjects – recognizing that there’s nothing wrong with good, clean, nerdy fun – even if there are a few ripe opportunities (it’s vaguely unsettling that the bands, largely composed of socially inept adult men, have audiences consisting primarily of barely pubescent girls), he also (thankfully) avoids the subject of “slash” fiction, which I think we can all agree should be purged by nuclear fire. Instead, “We Are Wizards” is a nifty look at a few small but significant slices of Potter mania that evokes interest rather than provoking disdain, not always an easy feat.

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