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Twilight in Forks: The Saga of the Real Town is not a documentary in the strict sense of the word. It's not an investigative passion project, nor a film focused on the art and exploration of a story. It's a marketing supplement meant to feed fandom whilst giving juicy, real-life background to Stephenie Meyer's world of vampires and werewolves. That, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. Any big fan -- of which Twilight has hordes -- is hungry for it all, from the smallest anecdotes to the real-life folks who actually live in Forks.
As the DVD cover says, it's the saga of the real town -- "the people and places of Forks and La Push." One would then assume that watching this 84-minute "documentary" would offer the viewer a good feel for Forks, its people, and its history. Not quite. Rather than an interesting look into how this flailing logging town was pulled out of the ruins by sparkling skin and furry hides, it's a marketing piece for Forks, choosing to relay what we already know about Meyer fandom, the fans who have descended upon Forks, a handful of residents who love the series, and what's in store if you head there yourself.
The documentary is broken into several sections. After a brief intro where Forks folks try to link real stories to Meyer's fiction -- and try to make The Twilight Saga into a sort of Blair Witch reality -- the film hits the fans, the people, the tour, the characters, La Push, and finally, the history. That progression alone relays the problem. For a documentary said to focus on the two areas of Washington slammed by sparkles, they get less than a third of the film's real attention; for example, it's almost an hour before Roy Black Sr., a Quileute Tribal Elder, starts talking about how he's "Jacob's Grandpa," as the camera starts to turn towards La Push.
Most of the filmmaker's (Jason Brown) attention is focused on the story and fans -- the girls who traveled to see the first film get made, those who actually moved to Forks because of the series, the bands who infuse a little Meyer into their music. In fact, the feature has the basis for a pretty interesting look into Twilight fandom. MTV's Larry Carroll discusses the thank-you letters he got for the site's Twihard coverage, and how the fans researched not only the story and the progression of the films, but also Carroll's own life, learning of his upcoming fatherhood and sending him Twilight-themed baby/dad gear. Another father discusses how he resisted the books, but now finds that it has made him a better dad, and allowed him a rare and continuing bond with his daughter, who has urged him to become a sort of real-life Carlisle Cullen. The guest that hits closest to the essence of Twilight fandom, however, is professor and author John Granger (known for his Harry Potter writing), who rightly notes that the fan fervor is connected to the reader's "vitals," and how they are consumed by what they're missing or searching for in their own lives.
When the documentary starts to delve into Forks, it's a quick overview -- how Forks was a logging town that started to suffer with the economy, how there was a spotted owl issue (never discussed, only referenced), and now, how things are thriving. La Push gets a slightly better handling, with a few Quileutes talking about the wolfy start of their tribe. Unfortunately, that's it. It's impossible to get any palpable understanding or knowledge of Quileute life. We might understand the story that Meyer used to link reality to werewolves, but we are left with no discernible sense of who these people are, and what their environment is like.
What is, perhaps, most disappointing is how easy it would be to re-frame the film and give the viewers what its title promises. Don't start with fandom; start with Forks and La Push, the subjects of the documentary. Show a map of the location and briefly discuss its geography. Dig into the history -- when it was founded, how the logging business grew, what happened to make it fail, just how the owl issue was noteworthy, what or how many businesses were failing, and how long the town struggled until Meyer's fandom revitalized it. From there, get Meyer on-screen to talk about her thoughts on Forks and La Push, her visiting the area, and then how the town learned of these books, and embraced them as tourism exploded from hundreds to tens of thousands. If a viewer wants to really understand the "real" town, they must be given the opportunity to see it from nothing but a Forks frame of reference, not a Twilight one.
The question of whether Twilight in Forks: The Saga of the Real Town is worthy, ultimately, depends on your expectations. If you want to know about Forks, about its history and life, about the moments that exist outside Twihard fandom, and the world that inspired Stephenie Meyer to choose it for her series, you will be disappointed. If, however, you just want to feel camaraderie with fellow followers, and get an idea what's in store if you ever save up enough pennies to go to the town yourself, it's a nice little Twilight treat for your shelf.