The ‘unstoppable’ power of Grayskull

Rob McCallum, (BA’04, Film Studies), produced The Power of Grayskull, among the films that will be screened at the third annual Forest City Film Festival (FCFF), taking place Oct. 25-28 at the London Public Library’s Wolf Performance Hall.

Chances are, you remember your first action hero. And if you are like Rob McCallum, you will remember Adam, prince of Eternia and defender of the secrets of Castle Grayskull.

“We all have that one thing – whether it’s Hot Wheels, or Barbie, or Nintendo or something else. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was that toy for me; it was the toy that defined my childhood,” said McCallum, (BA’04, Film Studies).

The London-based filmmaker’s interest in the He-Man franchise is so profound, he made a movie about it. His feature documentary, The Power of Grayskull is among the films that will be screened at the third annual Forest City Film Festival (FCFF), taking place Oct. 25-28 at the London Public Library’s Wolf Performance Hall.

The Power of Grayskull, the “definitive history of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” tells the story of the cartoon and action-figure character whose surprising popularity spawned a multi-billion-dollar empire that includes toys, comic books, cartoons, live-action movies and continues to appeal to fans today. The film showcases his continued interest in the power of nostalgia and pop culture.

“He was very empowering for me. He’d raise that sword. ‘I have the power.’ He was unstoppable. It was great, for any little kid,” said McCallum.

“I spend my days researching all the things I love and I thought it was about time that somebody did a proper documentary on the history of this billion-dollar franchise.”

McCallum worked with a team in Goderich who had produced a definitive history film on the Ninja Turtles. That team saw what he had done with his first documentary, Nintendo Quest, and thought this venture would be “a great superpower team-up.” Together, they travelled to California and set out to tell the story of He-Man from its origins.

“Most people that had worked at Mattel, or Filmation, on the live action movie or any other iteration connected to the brand, were in the southern California region. We just started making the rounds and people were really willing to talk. They had lots of great stories, a lot of great material and a lot of original content – which is really where the documentary shines through,” McCallum explained.

“It’s one thing to have people talk about the subject matter, but to see the actual historical documents responsible for it, and be able to show it, for the first time, anywhere, is really special.”

The Power of Grayskull sold to Netflix and can be found on the streaming site now. It is McCallum’s third entry into the Forest City Film Festival. In the festival’s inaugural year, Missing Mom won Best Documentary. Last year, McCallum’s Kittie: Origins/Evolutions told the story of the London-based, all-female heavy metal band.

“I never really stopped working full-time, making movies. I’ve been doing it for 15 years in one way or another, in the hot chair, not working for others as a hired gun. It’s been nice to do my own thing, my own way, for as long as I’ve been able to do it,” he said.

Participation in the festival is something McCallum values – not just for the exposure but the kind of exposure it provides.

“It’s exposure to non-mainstream cinema that people won’t get every week at the cineplex. It’s not that homogenized Hollywood product that feels the same every time you go. Going to a film festival is a special, unique experience because you get exposed to things you’d never expect to be exposed to. It starts the discussion; it gets you thinking,” he said.

“And for my films to be part of that discussion is a unique opportunity and I’m lucky enough that I’ve been able to create content they feel is cool enough to showcase with the community.”

There are a number of Western connections at the film festival, including:

  • Andrew Kooman, MA’18 (English, Transitional Justice), wrote the film She Has A Name about human sex trafficking in Thailand. Arts & Humanities Associate Dean Nandi Bhatia (FCFF Board Member) helped bring this film to the Preview Night;
  • The Western Smartphone Film Festival winning film will be screened at FCFF for the third year in a row;
  • The FCFF screenwriting competition is sponsored by the Faculty of Arts & Humanities;
  • The festival’s international screenings committee – Arts & Humanities faculty members Henri Boyi, Constanza Burucua, Nandi Bhatia and Nandita Dutta (a Hispanic Studies graduate student) – have been working to bring an international film with ties to large newcomer communities in Southwestern Ontario, as part of a new initiative this year to celebrate cultural diversity in the region. This year’s inaugural international screening is On Her Shoulders, a documentary about a Yazidi survivor of the genocide by ISIS. London has the largest Yazidi refugee population in Canada.

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION

The third annual Forest City Film Festival takes place Oct. 25-28 at the London Public Library’s Wolf Performance Hall. Visit forestcityfilmfest.ca for details.