May the Fan Be with You (Que le fan soit avec toi)
(Canada, 85 min.)
Dir. Marc Joly-Corcoran
During the summer of my fifth year, I saw something on a big screen that would change my life. It was a pioneering space opera that used the aesthetic of a “used future” to tell a tale from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. There’s a direct line from that darkened theatre screening Star Wars for the first time, to my career as a film writer, a collector, and a passionate fan of cinema in its many forms, reaching back to the works of Kurosawa, to the experimental NFB films that gave Lucas further inspiration, through to films that either embraced the blockbuster aesthetic or actively rebelled against it.
It’s thus entirely fitting I should respond favourably to Marc Joly-Corcoran’s lovely look at a small group of Star Wars obsessives, Quebecois cosplayers who have elevated their fandom to levels well beyond my own. Filmed over several years, and culminating with a Tunisian journey just before COVID lockdowns, May the Fan Be with You does an excellent job in providing a detailed, sympathetic look at this community of like-minded fans.
There’s Jef and Kim, a couple with a shared passion for dress up that even their children find somewhat bemusing. Carefully curated figures litter rooms of their house, each corner filled with reminders of their favourite franchise. There’s Christian “Malgus” Lorin, whose own connection with cosplayers is strong, leading his local 501st Legion for the year 2018. The 501st is an organization that started as a bunch of people in Stormtrooper costumes and has morphed into a massive, international community that habitually dresses in Star Wars paraphernalia to attend comic conventions, and to entertain children at hospitals and other charitable events, and so on. Then there’s Steeve Gros-Louis, a prominent restaurateur and comic storeowner who directly ties his Indigenous roots and keeping up of traditional garb with his inclination to put on plastic armour and walk the deserts where the Tatooine scenes were filmed in Tunisia.
We see some financial strains and slight questioning of their obsessions as the film runs on, brief cracks in their appreciation of what they’ve set out to do. It’s this I found most personally resonant, as a long time collector, I also shifted to other interests when I realized the Sisyphean, completionist task of accumulation was no longer quite as fun as it used to be. There’s even some snark as the film goes on, and certain discussions about occurrences in contemporary chapters of the Star Wars saga were hardly alien to anyone who dove deeply into this world.
Gros-Louis’ direct connection to donning a Stormtrooper outfit and wearing buckskin and beaded regalia is particularly fascinating. His direct commercial connection not only to the most prominent Star Wars collector of all time, Steve Sansweet, but also gifting images at a convention of his Indigenous costuming to Erin Kellyman, the actress who played Enfys Nest in Solo: A Star Wars Story with an outfit highly influenced by similar aesthetics.
After many stories of the four and the people they connect with, it’s a shame that the film ends with what’s clearly a moment of triumph, as the title cards allude to a perhaps more fascinating story where several of the participants have stepped away from their more overt and deep love for this franchise. It’s as if we see the peak of their obsessions, but not what led them to step back and let others take over the mantle.
Still, as an entertaining look at a subculture of a subculture, with the tight-knit community of French-speaking Star Wars uberfans forming an island of geekdom that’s simultaneously unique and tied to a larger world of obsessives, May the Fan Be with You does a terrific job of leading us into their lives regardless of one’s connection to their enjoyment of Star Wars. This doc is thus a story that’s highly specific and entirely universal, and could easily be about anything from comic book films or Harry Potter, to sports teams or porcelain trinkets. The joys, anxieties and regrets of the collector mentality is surely not lost on this writer, and the film serves simultaneously as cautionary tale and overt celebration, recognizing all the facets of experience when one commits so passionately to such endeavours.
Given that it screened at Fantasia, another community of obsessives that provides extraordinary experiences when collectively encountering cinema, I can only wish that I could have seen the film that celebrates such over-the-top revelries with the meowing, raucous crowd that surely greeted its premiere. Alas, I was forced to screen in my home, metres away from my own sizeable Star Wars collection, seeing myself in these characters, and empathizing entirely with both the way they express their love of these films, but also their own ambivalence for when the act of keeping going along the collecting train becomes more work than its worth.
May the Fan Be with You may not break any new documentary ground, but it’s a story well told with charismatic characters worth spending time with. While the deeper story occurs after the credits have rolled, there’s enough in the story as told to recommend it.