If I mention the word Lego, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For some people, that word refers to plastic bricks that are an absolute nuisance to bare feet if stepped upon. Others may be whisked away to childhood and hours on the floor creating houses, spaceships, or a myriad of other things. Still others are avid users of the toy as adults, creating sculptures and displays not unlike Will Ferrell’s character in The Lego Movie. Whatever you first thought, it’s no secret that Lego is a company built on the simple premises of design and storytelling. A Lego Brickumentary, a new DVD from Oscar-winning director Daniel Junge and Oscar nominee Keif Davidson, seeks to open the Lego world to viewers. And what a world it is–full of bricks, creativity, and community.
Narrated by actor Jason Bateman, A Lego Brickumentary is a highly entertaining and fascinating look at the world bricks have created. There currently exist 100 Lego bricks for every person on the planet, with 100,000 more made each minute. Kids love them as they create things from their imagination (or by following the wordless instruction manuals). Adults love them and attend annual conventions around the world to showcase their creations. Some people go all out and build massive creations that take millions of bricks (including houses, working car engines [!], and replicas of famous items). Others use them to create stop-motion films that generate millions of YouTube hits. Doctors have even figured out ways to use Lego bricks to help autistic children!
It wasn’t always like this, however. Lego was struggling along in the late 1990’s as their creation and products had become stagnant. The system of interlocking bricks they had worked so hard to create had been forgotten, replaced with products that had few pieces and required little imagination and curiosity. When they set their sights on the original intent again and started listening to what their users wanted, sales took off again. The wonderful thing about Lego is that the system allows for creativity for kids, adults, and folks looking to use the pieces in art exhibitions (such as Nathan Sawaya, whose works are shown above and below).
I spoke with co-director Daniel Junge recently and asked him about the documentary and the reaction it has received. Junge’s film history has always involved darker subject matter (Saving Face was about acid attacks on people in Pakistan), but he enjoyed the challenge of Lego. In fact, he said it was the most difficult work he’s done, mainly because Lego is beloved and how expansive and passionate the Lego community is. At times, there’s a fine line that is neared between documentary and infomercial (he’s received some criticism for this), but Junge felt “in this world, if there was something to needed to be heralded and celebrated, it was Lego.” He also notes that Lego listening to its users was a “sea change for them that didn’t happen overnight” and led to the theme of the whole documentary: Lego is about community as much as it is about the bricks themselves.
This makes sense to me as I was reminded how important community is today. Unless you live in a cave and have no methods of reaching out to other people, you’re a part of some type of community. It brings people alongside to cheer and comfort in both good times and bad. There are times to laugh, activities to enjoy (watching a football game, for example), and opportunities to get to know others. It encourages folks to be better than they could be on their own. This is manifest in the Bible—no, not in Elijah’s choice to hide out, but in the early church itself. Acts 2:42-47 is a fantastic passage where community is on display for the world to see as the new followers of Jesus share meals, meet together, and provide for others as needs exist. The end result is that many people were drawn to God, further increasing and strengthening the church. Without community, there wouldn’t be a faith for us to hear and respond to. We’re all in this together, so we need to make creative and effective use of it!
A Lego Brickumentary is definitely worth your time to view and will rekindle your love of the little bricks that can create worlds beyond one’s imagination. It’s also a fascinating look at the power of community and the amazing things that can result from it. You’ll never see those little plastic bricks the same away again.
A Lego Brickumentary is available on DVD and Blu-Ray starting November 3.