We’ve all played with them: as kids, as adults, with our kids, building fairy castles and X-Wingstar fighters. Of course, I’m talking about LEGOS. And, doubtless, you saw the wonderful Lego movie, which was a huge hit and a critical success. So now we have Beyond the Brick: A LEGO Brickumentary, coming to theaters, iTunes, and OnDemand July 31.
Lego aficionados build towns, villages, space stations and worlds with those little colorful bricks, and with the Beyond the Brick, Oscar-winning Director Daniel Junge and Oscar-nominated Director Kief Davidson lovingly take us into the world of LEGO: its history, its fans, and far beyond. In a way, it’s the flip side of the inventive hit The LEGO Movie.
Narrated by a LEGO-ed Jason Bateman (whose similarly starred in The Lego Movie), using stop action animation and live footage, the directors take the audience through the history of the little brick that could, from its humble beginnings in Denmark to the remarkable use of Legos by adult hobbyists (called AFOLs–Adult Fans of Legos), architects, filmmakers, and fine artists, and even in autism therapy. What is it about a small plastic brick that makes it flexible enough to build a gorgeous replica of Lord of the Rings‘ Rivendell, a life-size copy of Star Wars‘ X-Wing fighter, and an operational roller coaster?
The movie is an inspired (and sometimes-inspirational) journey, and although it’s a bit too long, and might have benefitted from a bit more left on the cutting-room floor, the 90-minute documentary is a hoot, and will no doubt catapult viewers young and old to search the attic for their Legos, while motivating others to run to the nearest toystore to acquire the buy bricks, kits, and create fantasy-scapes of their own.
And what would inspire two directors to dedicate and entire 90-minute movie to a “child’s plaything?”
That’s the question I posed in during my interview with the movie’s directors. Junge told me that he was fascinated by the “nature of this toy. Curious about what Legos say about us.”
Davidson wanted to make a family-friendly movie. He wanted to show viewers the “passion demonstrated by Lego” lovers, but also depict the way in which Legos “bring people and commuites together.” One of the things that really surprised him emotionally was learning about how Legos can be used in therapy. (There is a particualarly emotional story in the movie about how a therapist was able to reach autistic patients through Lego-play.)
Among the AFOLs building dreamscapes and magnificent architectural projects–buildings and cites of the future, there are also serious fine artists, among them Nathan Sawaya, whose medium is–you guessed it–Lego bricks.
Sawaya, who was a corporate lawyer before giving over to his artistic urge, wondered how he might use Legos to create. Finding the brick as much a creative outlet as painting and drawing, Sawaya became a sculptor in Lego. He finds that creating something with up to 15-20,000 individual bricks can be a cathartic experience, he told me during an interview at this month’s San Diego Comic-Con.
Some of his most interesting sculpture works are human forms, their insides exposed, with Legos tumbling from them. Although he was reluctant to explain his art, he noted that to him, it represents “giving it you all–exposing yourself.” It’s a personal connection, especially since when Sawaya gave up his law practice, his friends told him he was mistaken to do it–to give up a lucrative career to do Lego art.
Clearly, his naysayers were wrong. Sawaya has had gallery showings in New York and elsewhere. A LEGO Brickumentary opens this week in theaters nationwide, and will be available for streaming via Video on Demand and iTunes.
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