By the Way

‘Raiders!’ ready for Biloxi red-carpet debut

Ocean Springs native Chris Strompolos shoots a scene as Indiana Jones in the remake of “Raiders of The Lost Ark.”
Ocean Springs native Chris Strompolos shoots a scene as Indiana Jones in the remake of “Raiders of The Lost Ark.” Courtesy

It was an impossible childhood dream that’s been almost 35 years in the making. It’s the story of a group of friends who grew up in cinema’s greatest era — the days of “Star Wars,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” “E.T.” and last but certainly not least “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

And no, I’m not talking about the creative team behind the Netflix cult sensation “Stranger Things.”

This is about Ocean Springs natives Chris Strompolos and Eric Zala and their quest to find their own Ark of the Covenant. Strompolos and Zala where 11 years old when they were so inspired by the Steven Spielberg/George Lucas masterpiece that is “Raiders of The Lost Ark,” they decided to remake the movie shot-by-shot.

They started shooting their masterpiece in the summer months when they were out of school and the days were long and the lighting was perfect. In 2014, as men in their 40s, they finally completed their film when they shot the crucial airfield scene in Vancleave with the help of their friends.

Their dream caught the attention of director/producer Eli Roth (“The Green Inferno”), who decided to produce a documentary about their quest to complete the film — decades later.

“Raiders! The Story of The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made” is a documentary directed by Jeremy Coon and Tim Skousen that tells the story of Zala’s and Strompolos’ passion and their decision to finish the film in 2014.

Zala and Strompolos have been touring the country in a “Raiders”-themed RV promoting the film, which was distributed by Drafthouse Films. The cross-country trek started in June in Seattle. And on Friday, you can give them a hero’s welcome when the film makes its Mississippi debut at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino at 7 p.m.

Beau marketing director Mary Cracchiolo Spain is excited about the homecoming and you should be, too.

For 10 bucks, you can see not only Coon’s documentary but also the actual fan film made by Zala and Strompolos. It will be as if the Ark of the Covenant is opened for the Coast to see without that whole “wrath of God” thing and Major Toht’s face will probably not melt, although I cannot guarantee it.

This is a big night not only for Zala and Strompolos, but also for people like Francisco Gonzalez and Mark Spain and everyone that had a hand in completing the film.

But it’s also a big night for the Coast. We are a community with a deep commitment to the arts, from Pascagoula and Moss Point to Bay St. Louis and Waveland on the “west coast.” Let us welcome our native sons home with open arms and the wide-eyed fascination of an 11-year-old.

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