Sunday, May 4, 2008

Harry Potter fans' energy unstoppable in "We are Wizards"

By BA Haller
© Media dis&dat blog

I attended the Maryland Film Festival today and saw the documentary about Harry Potter fans, "We are Wizards." It was hilarious and poignant and thought-provoking. I didn't expect it to have disability content, per my focus on this blog, but it unexpectedly had a major climactic moment when one of the people it profiled is revealed to have a devastating immune disorder called Dercum's Disease.

The documentary focuses on 13 "wizards" who participate in a variety of Harry Potter-related activities, from Wizard Rock concerts to cartoon send ups to a fan Web site that brought a major movie studio to its knees.

Heather Lawver, who created the fan Web site that fought and won against Warner Bros. Pictures, revealed toward the end of the film that she has Dercum's Disease, which has caused her to have several toes amputated. She says that sometimes she was so ill that she was doing all her Internet work from bed.

Lawver comes off as the most amazing "wizard" in the documentary, IMHO, because at the age of 13 (that's right, 13!), she started a Harry Potter fan site called The Daily Prophet ( as a way to get children to improve their skills in creative writing. She made it into a charity in 2003 that helps children with their writing skills.

If that's not amazing enough for a teenager, she led an international fight and won, when Warner Bros. Pictures, owner of the Harry Potter films, began trying to shut down fan sites. To combat Warner Brothers, she started an international boycott of everything Harry Potter (except the JK Rowling books). The boycott was so successful that Warner Brothers settled all but one of its cases against fan Web sites.

Lawver hopes to turn the Potter War and Defense against the Dark Arts (DADA) boycott Web sites into a fan protection agency. "We hope to educate webmasters, teaching them how to keep their site from any legal misfortune, while still having the freedom to operate," the DADA site says.

Now that "We are Wizards" is making the film festival rounds, maybe more attention will be paid to some of the copyright issues and corporate bullying that affect fans, not just those into Harry Potter, but everyone who is inspired creatively by a book or movie or whatever. That's what the documentary is truly about -- taking your passion for something and going down whatever path of creativity it leads. (You can watch the film's trailer on YouTube.)

Bravo to director Josh Koury for making such a wonderful film.