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Star Wars Kid: The Rise of the Digital Shadows

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Ghyslain Raza was 15 years old in 2003, when his two minutes of fame would make him “patient zero” of web virality. He’d filmed himself letting it all hang out in a fixed-shot video. An amateur video. Overnight, it was made public by other students and downloaded millions of times — long before social media came onto the scene.

Suddenly, “sharing” became synonymous with meanness, intimidation, and a mob mentality. Unwittingly, Raza became the “Star Wars Kid.” Now, South Park and Family Guy were making references to the teen from Trois-Rivières behind the most famous meme in history.

Over the next two decades, Ghyslain built — or, rather, rebuilt — his life away from the camera. Today, he is a man with a keen emotional intelligence, and a doctoral student in law. The world has changed since 2003, largely thanks to the rise of social media, the commercialization of personal data, and the relentless memory of the web, which could come back to haunt us at any time. It’s a potent fear, and one that leads to questions on the right to control one’s own image, and, above all, the right to be forgotten.

Directed by Mathieu Fournier and shot in Trois-Rivières, New York and Portland this intimate documentary tells the story of the first viral phenomenon of the digital age. In the film, Ghyslain Raza breaks his silence, reflecting publicly for the first time on his story in conversation with other participants. Through his story, we explore our own shared experience, living in an online world hungry for content and ruled by the famous sentiment expressed in the John Ford film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” It’s a line which begs the response, “Yes, but at what price?”

2022, 79 min 53 s

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Best Editing: Public Affairs, Documentary Program
Prix Gémeaux
September 18 2022, Montréal - Canada

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