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 Ghyslain 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, millions of viewers did not see the story behind the viral video, Ghyslain’s story. Star Wars Kid: The Rise of the Digital Shadows reveals the untold story behind the infamous “Star Wars Kid.”
Ghyslain’s story begins with a simple video he made to help his friend in an AV class at high school. Without Ghyslain’s knowledge, his 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 Ghyslain as the video transports him from everyday life into a world of cyberbullying and unwanted fame. Now 20 years removed from the original post, Ghyslain seeks to create a dialogue of empathy in the age of social media.
“…the untold story behind the infamous ‘Star Wars Kid.’“
Star Wars Kid perfectly captures the early Internet ethos that thrust “the Star Wars Kid” to screens worldwide. The documentary enlists a gallery of pop culture gurus, meme historians, and internet experts to analyze the significance of the Star Wars Kid meme and the broader Internet culture in the early 2000s. Director and Co-writer Mathieu Fournier clearly understands cyberculture from a modern and historical sense, weaving the film’s themes as relevant in 2023 as they were in 2003.
Fournier and Ghyslain discuss each theme of the documentary 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 themes hitting at once, sometimes the film’s structure gets a little lost in the shuffle. Ghyslain’s back-and-forth with students in a classroom is great for setting up themes but does not deliver the same nuance as his other conversations in the film. Despite the few hangups, the message of creating a better generation of digital citizens is evident throughout the documentary, climaxing with poignant clarity.
Ghyslain’s goal is to help the world reflect on ourselves as people and who we are online. Star Wars Kid shows the highs and lows of self-reflection, featuring Ghyslain’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 the 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.
First appear at Star Wars Kid: The Rise of the Digital Shadows