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May the Force NFB With You

May the Force NFB With You

May the Force NFB With You

One might think that there is very little to tie one of the most successful commercial film franchises in the history of movies to the — usually — more art-house fare that defines the NFB.

One couldn’t be more wrong.

From his film studies at University of Southern California to the creation of THX-1138 and the first (or fourth, depending on how you want to look at it) installment of the Star Wars franchise, George Lucas was greatly inspired by one avant-garde filmmaker who worked at the NFB for a very long time: Arthur Lipsett.

Specifically, Lucas has repeatedly stated that Lipsett’s 21-87 had such an impact on him that he not only viewed it tens of times in a row while at school, and a few 21-87 references are peppered throughout his oeuvre.

photo: LucasFilms
photo: LucasFilms

Indeed! Poor Leia’s jail cell on the Death Star was actually cell number 2187 (in Detention Block AA-23).

Skip to 2:19!

But the honor doesn’t stop there. Lucas has admitted that even the name of “The Force” in Star Wars was a direct reference to this sentence heard in 21-87 :

Many people feel that in the contemplation of nature and in communication with other living things, they become aware of some kind of force, or something, behind this apparent mask which we see in front of us, and they call it God.

So even if he invented midi-chlorians in 1999, if you do your research, you’ll know that the true origin of the Force is an editing room somewhere in the NFB HQ in Montreal…

21-87, Arthur Lipsett, offert par l'Office national du film du Canada

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