A first review:
When we think of a ‘fan film’ we immediately conjure the image of corduroy trousers, thick rimmed glasses and a couple of 30-somethings living with their mum. Imagine the setting – back garden, local park, poorly disguised living room. Imagine the costume – eBay outfits, plastic ears and children’s toys over a backdrop of clunky dialogue and appalling editing. What you probably won’t see is a massive crew, glorious locations and choreographed action set against a superb musical score. What you won’t see is Lord of the Rings.
Unless you are watching Born of Hope.
Conceived in 2003 by director and actor Kate Madison, Born of Hope is a marvel of what can be achieved with dogged determination and the support of thousands of Tolkien fans. Shot for around £23000 at locations around the UK in 2008/09, it is released today (1st December) on Daily Motion, for free.
What is so special about Born of Hope is in the detail. It is a completely original tale set before the Lord of the Rings trilogy, based on the trials of Aragorn’s father Arathorn, leader of an ever dwindling tribe of nomadic rangers. He has to face the end of his royal line at the behest of the monstrous Orc horde. But that is actually a simplistic view of what is a complex story of love, duty and responsibility. There’s no easy choices for Arathorn (played by actor Chris Dane), who must protect his son even if it means sacrificing his people, and his wife.
Against this excellent tale comes the detail in costume, set design and choreography. Scores of Orcs were recruited using custom made prosthetics, amazing armour, and borrowed props from the equally impressive fan film The Hunt for Gollum. Everything from the hairpieces to the swords was spot on.
The majority of the cast were actors working for nothing between projects, the extras were a mixture of re-enactors and stage-fighters.
It’s even more amazing considering its difficult production. After a test shoot in 2006 the production had all sorts of issues, not the least the schedule – when working for free, people have to find time in their working life, including the actors. To confound matters, Tolkien Enterprises, like all companies with intellectual property rights, weren’t too keen on allowing such a production and Kate had to negotiate a solution.
It’s probably one of the reasons the cast & crew felt like a family; with so much to do, and so little time to do it everyone has to muck in. In some cases in meant braving the harsh November climes and camping out at West Stow in -5C. Or maybe starting a fire and stirring a cauldron of stew meant for the whole team. Or just providing hugs and coffee (thanks to the runners for that!).
It wasn’t just the production team who carried a burden either. Legions of fans donated to the cause and egged the production on, even after four years.
It paid off, with accolades showering the ambitious production from day one, including a staggering testimonial from WETA.
Six years after seeing Return of the King, we finally get to immerse ourselves in the world of Tolkien again.
Alan Kael Ball [1st December 2009]