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Swede Fest Attracts Hollywood Blockbuster Remakes


The new movie "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1" made more money at the box office over the holiday weekend, beating new releases like "The Muppets" and "Arthur Christmas." Now, going to the movies is fun, but for some fans it's not enough to simply watch the action. They want an interactive experience. In fact, they want to be the stars. NPR's Travis Larchuk explains.

TRAVIS LARCHUK, BYLINE: All right. So here's a scene from the movie "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World."


SATYA BHABHAJ, ACTOR: (as Matthew Patel) Mr. Pilgrim. It is I, Matthew Patel.

LARCHUK: And here it is again. See if you can hear the difference.



UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Mr. Pilgrim. It is I, Matthew Patel.

LARCHUK: The first clip is from a feature-length, real Hollywood movie with a multimillion-dollar budget. And the second clip is from a five-minute-long, fan-created tribute, with a $10 budget. And earlier this month at a packed brewpub in Fresno, California, videographer Bryan Harley welcomed hundreds of people to an entire evening of hastily produced, cheaply made re-creations of Hollywood blockbusters. It's called Swede Fest.

BRYAN HARLEY: Welcome to Swede Fest 8.


LARCHUK: Harley co-founded Swede Fest with a friend. They put it on twice a year. And each time, they show around 20 brand-new shorts, called Swedes. Unlike many fan-made efforts, these have an intentionally slapped-together quality.

HARLEY: They're extremely low-budget - props made out of cardboard or, you know, whatever household items you have lying around. And it's just so fun, and it makes you feel like a kid again.

LARCHUK: And calling them Swedes? That comes from the comedy "Be Kind, Rewind," released in 2008. The film stars Jack Black, and it's about a couple of guys who film their own, shoddy re-creations of "Ghostbusters" and "Rush Hour 2," and justify charging customers to watch them by claiming they're Sweded.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (as character) Like Sweden?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: (as character) Yeah, Sweded.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (as character) It's a country, not a verb.

JACK BLACK: (as Jerry) Exactly. That's why it's expensive, because it's a faraway, expensive country.

LARCHUK: Michel Gondry wrote and directed "Be Kind Rewind." And he's the one who came up with the term Sweding. He says he didn't expect the concept would actually catch on.

MICHEL GONDRY: Generally, when I do a movie, it's an OK success; it's never a huge hit. So I'm surprised that eventually, I did something that seems to be catching up.

LARCHUK: Among the films shown at Swede Fests, there's the Sweded version of "A Few Good Men..."


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: You can't handle the truth.

LARCHUK: ...where Colonel Jessup's uniform is adorned with paper stars that look straight out of a grade-school classroom. In "Back to the Future..."


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: Einstein here is the world's first time traveler.

LARCHUK: ...the iconic silver DeLoreon is replaced by a tiny, yellow Smart car.

Heather McLane, who writes brochures in her day job, directed that "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" tribute we heard earlier.

HEATHER MCLANE: At one point, we had one of the characters who was supposed to be flying through the air. So we just put her on a rolling table and just rolled her towards the camera.

LARCHUK: Swede Fest doesn't give out any prizes. That's not the point. And it doesn't reject films, either. The first 20 submitted get in. So what does the guy who came up with the term Sweding have to say about all this? Director Michel Gondry says it's exciting people have embraced his idea, but he hopes they're inspired to make their own original films, too.

GONDRY: I would rather people do their own movies, but if they start in doing those reproduction of movies and then carry on doing their own movie, it seems very positive.

LARCHUK: The idea is spreading beyond California. There's a Swede Fest in Tampa, Florida, now too, and the organizers are working on bringing it to other parts of the world.

Travis Larchuk, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Travis Larchuk