Harry Potter Doc: We Are Wizards
With Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 about to hit screens and Part 2 in theaters next year, now would be a good time to look into Potter fandom’s Golden Age. Luckily, filmmaker Josh Koury captured the mania and the craziness in his entertaining documentary We Are Wizards, which is embedded in full above. The film specifically focuses on the multimedia aspect of fans’ engagement with the source material and with each other, particularly the music subculture called Wizard Rock. WARNING: If you’re planning to watch this documentary with your kids — or if you are a kid — interview subject Brad Neely, unfortunately, colors his language with lots of expletives.
Although the documentary doesn’t get into the history of fandom in general, Harry Potter-inspired Wizard Rock isn’t an all too unusual expression of fan love. Star Trek has its fans dressing up like Klingons and singing drinking songs. Leonard “Mr. Spock” Nimoy has his notorious Lord of the Rings-inspired “Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.”
What I found most surprising about We Are Wizards is that the music is actually pretty good. The band Harry and the Potters are good, nerdy interview subjects, but also their song about having a date in a coffee shop is a great, catchy tune that if you didn’t know he character names dropped in the song, you’d have no clue it was based on the Potter books.
It’s also amusing — in a good way — to see how different all the bands are. I also like the one band that sings from the point of view of Draco Malfoy, so all their songs are about how much they hate Harry Potter. (The character, not the franchise.) Plus, the four-year-old and seven-year-old singing brothers are adorable beyond belief.
In addition to the Wizard Rock bands, the movie also gets involved with other multimedia fan projects, most of which get tangled up in legal wranglings with Warner Bros. The most infamous is Brad Neely’s Wizard People, Dear Reader, in which Neely recites his own narration to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Neely never mentions by name any of the film festivals that screened his Potter re-imagining, but one of them was the 2004 New York Underground Film Festival.
Then there’s Heather Lawver, who used to run a now-defunct “school newspaper” website inspired by Harry Potter called the Daily Prophet. When the Daily Prophet and other fan-run websites received threatening cease-and-desist letters from Warner Bros., she and another fan, Alastair Alexander, organized a boycott against the corporation.
The film really nicely brings up the complications that arise between corporate interests and fan interests. Personally, as someone who’s worked for major corporations, I understand the need to protect multi-million dollar generating franchises, even when that need causes major frustrations — such as when 13-year-old girls receive threatening letters in the mail.
Plus, things are so amplified these days because of the internet. Fandom and the spreading of copyright-infringing materials can spring up so quickly, unlike the slow growth of something like Star Trek fandom in the ’60s and ’70s.