Monday, December 10, 2012

The Cosplayer Nation Documentary Premiere

On a warm sunny November afternoon, I was fortunate enough to attend the premiere of the Cosplayer Nation Documentary. The documentary was part of a film festival that was held at the Brattle Theater in Harvard Square featuring local film makers and musicians. Amongst these artists is of course our friends, Cosplayer Nation. The CEO and Founder, Joshua Adams and the President and Co-Founder, Uke Li were in attendance. During the first intermission, I got a chance to talk to them and gave them my opinion of the Cosplayer Nation Documentary premiere. They're very nice people and never too busy to say "hello" and chat. So, if you ever see Cosplayer Nation at a convention, don't be shy, just say go up and "Hi!"

What did I think of the documentary? Oh... "But wait," you exclaim! "What is Cosplayer Nation?" The short of it, Cosplayer Nation is a project of love started by local New Englanders whom are fans of cosplay. This project later became a legit Organization. Cosplayer Nation travels the world attending conventions seeking out cosplayers and documenting their love and devotion to the art of cosplaying. Basically, cosplaying is dressing up as your favorite character from but, not limited to anime, comic books, movies, pop culture, etc. There's a much deeper level to it but I'll let the real documentarians tackle that. It's literally, "COStume PLAY." A tribute to ANY character or any THING that you're a fan of. You like Einstein? Go ahead, dress up as the wacky atom splitting physicist. Your favorite is a German from the 40's? Sure? BUT! Make sure you don't unintentionally turn that into a hate crime. I'll save the skin and Nazi part of cosplaying for another post.

Now, how did I like the Cosplayer Nation Documentary? I enjoyed it a lot. Uke Li was nice enough to show me a trailer of the documentary a couple of years ago and asked me to give an opinion. I ungraciously forgot (sorry Uke. I hope this post makes up for it). My reaction to that initial trailer was very positive. When Cosplayer Nation announced the premiere of the Cosplayer Nation Documentary, I immediately made plans to go and check it out. The film opens with a news reporter interviewing a cosplayer. The reporter was wondering why the cosplayer was dressed up since it wasn't Halloween. Then the film cuts to the news room and you can definitely see the confusion in the news correspondents' weirded out faces. It provoked laughs in the audience but more importantly it sets the tone of the film on answering the question, "what is cosplay?" From the intro, the film rolls into a segment with people dressing up as their favorite characters. Cosplayer Nation definitely took the time and effort to go through hundreds of hours of footage to cut together a very impressive looking group of cosplayers. The music Cosplayer Nation chose to accompany the colorful characters on screen was a very interesting (good interesting) cover of the Legend of Zelda theme with a melodic beat. I have to say, it's pretty Cool! There were people in the audience bopping their heads to the beat.

The documentary is not a just a drawn out showcase of people in costumes. It's an unbiased look into the world of cosplaying and goes deeper into the psyche of the culture. It included interviews on the whys and the whats of these devoted artists. Why the many painstaking hours of work in making the costumes? What inspired these people to work so hard to risk being ridiculed? Some of these costumes are much better than what the professionals in Hollywood with a huge budget can create. Actually, I'd always felt that simply calling these incredible works of art "costumes" and "cosplays" does them injustice. But for a lack of my limited vocabulary, I'll stick to what I know. The love for this art also shines through the making of the documentary. The Cosplayer Nation Documentary took us back in time to WorldCon with The First documented costume. It even educated us on the etymology of the word "Cosplay." Diving deeper into the meaning of this art form, the film makers interviewed Danny Choo, the Dancing Stormtrooper of Tokyo, who gave us his take on the culture over in Asia. Another well known cosplayer interviewed was Holly Conrad. She's a Mass Effect cosplayer who got noticed by the movie and videogame industries. Now she's a professional costume designer. Holly Conrad was also featured in Morgan Spurlock's Comic-Con movie, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope.

A segment in the documentary that I really liked was the counterpoint of cosplaying. You know, that person who just doesn't get the art:
  • "Why are you dressed up?"
  • "Are you trying to get attention?"
  • "What's the difference between this and a cry for help?"

Later on, the film appropriately cuts to professionals such as system administrators, accountants and lawyers who participates in cosplay as an art form and self-expression. It included a well known Mr. T cosplayer in the New England area telling us what it's all about. He sounded rough but very articulate which is a lot like the documentary itself. The documentary is a bit rough on the edges. I had trouble hearing some of the interviews because the audio was a bit low. But the message it was getting across was legible. During my talk with the film makers (Joshua Adams and Uke Li), they assured me that the sound mixing will be better in the final cut. Yes, final cut. The version of the Cosplayer Nation Documentary shown at the Brattle Theater was only 15min long. This was not because of the film makers short sight. It was because of the time constraint set by the Film Festival. The film makers went on saying that the finished documentary will be much more focused and it'll touch upon the different cultures of cosplaying in other countries. I can not wait. I'd seen documentaries on Pop Culture Conventions such as Trekkies and Morgan Spurlock's Comic-Con movie but, none of them focused on just cosplaying. Cosplaying has became a phenomenon. You've probably seen someone walking down the street as some sort of character when it wasn't Halloween and wondered if the person was crazy. Maybe? But this art form definitely needs a movie if not, a series of movies to tell its story and to clear up misconceptions.

It's been months since I did any real writing on this blog let alone, a review. I am glad that the Cosplayer Nation Documentary gave me the inspiration. There is a preview version of the documentary that is longer than 15min and it might show up in a theater, college or convention near you. I highly recommend checking it out if you get a chance. Whether you understand this type of art form/culture or not, the film is highly enjoyable and you'll definitely come out knowing much more about cosplaying. The Cosplayer Nation Documentary was both captivating and fun and as a cosplaying friend of mine would simply put it, "EPIC!"

Below is a link to the Cosplayer Nation youtube channel and Facebook. There are hours of cosplay footages and interviews from all around the world. I highly recommend subscribing:

I also linked the trailers of the Cosplayer Nation Documentary. Enjoy!

One of the highlights of the premiere was Cobra Commander shown at 0:47 of this trailer getting a huge applause.


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