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lational QUEBEC Return of the 'Star Wars Kid' In an exclusive with L'actualité, Maclean's sister publication, Ghyslain Raza speaks for the first time with Jonathan Trudel about the infamous video TO HUNDREDS OF millions of Internet users, | Q: What do you remember about taping the the young man who sits before me in a cen- video? tury-old brick house in his hometown of A: I don't remember much about it. I made Trois-Rivières, Que., is the Star Wars Kid, Yes, the video in November 2002, when I was : Wars Kid. Ar age 14, when Ghyslain member of the school's television club, I'd Raza was a ninth grader, attending private | been working on Star Wars parody with school at St. Joseph's Seminary, he videotaped other students for a school gala. One even- himself clumsily wielding a golf ball retriever, ing, while I was alone in the studio, I practised pretending that was a light saber. s the chorcography, I used a golf ball retriever classmates found his VHS cassette on a shelf, as a light saber. Most 14-year-old boys would watched the video, digitized it and distrib- do something similar in that situation, maybe uted it -without his knowledge or consent- more gracefully, but I was goofing around. I on the Internet file-sharing service Kazaa. left the tape on a shelf in the studio. I didn't The video went viral. Overnight, the shy teen- think about hiding it. Who would take the ager's world collapsed, Bullying at school and trouble to watch it? on the web forced him to drop out of school. Q: When did you find out that it had been That happened 10 years ago. Since then, broadcast? rumours have circulated that Raza was com A: One day, in the spring of 2003, I came into mitted to a psychiatric hospital, died in an the studio and saw that someone had saved "If I were you, I'd kill myself." I read that in accident and committed suicide. "Hundreds an image from my video as a computer desk- French, in English and it was probably writ- of erroneous reports about me are in the press| top. I wondered how got there. A friend ten in other languages, too. No one would and on the web," says the 25-year-okd. The facts told me, "There's a video of you making the allow people to say that in real life. Telling are that Raza graduated from law school at rounds. Didn't you know?" Everything went people to commit suicide is a crime. But on McGill University and plans to begin a mas- downhill from there. 1 knew that 1 in the Internet, there are no limits. l quickly ter's degree in law there this fall. Over the past trouble right away, because, well, it wasn't figured out that there was no point in re decade, he has declined hundreds of interview exactly martial arts masterpiece. that ing the stuff. ! was poison. requests. A few years ago, he agreed to meet me point, the video had been watched mostly in Q: When did you tell your parents? for coffee. Then, a few months ago, he finally| Quebec. But that didn't last. U.S. bloggers, A: I didn't say anything at first. I embar- agreed to an interview. Why? Raza says he's including Star Wars fans, started to circulate rassed! No kid wants to come home and say, been shaken by the recent spate of high-pro- it. People added special effects; soon, the "Dad, Mom, guess what's happening? 'The file cases of cyberbullying, some of which have video had tens of millions of viewers. Then whole world is laughing at me." At a certain pushed their victims to commit suicide. He things spun completely out of control. point, I didn't have a choice. I told them hopes that speaking out about his experience O: What were the repercussions at school? everything. At the beginning, they couldn't will help young victims to weather the storm. A: Everything rapidly degenerated. In the understand what was so special about the Q: Why did you stay silent for 10 years? common room, students climbed onto table- video. They soon learned why. Reporters from tops to insult me. Others mocked the video around the world started pestering me. My A: Go back to May 2003, to the early weeks by exaggerating it. People made fun of my dad called the school, but the principal and after the video was posted on the web. It was physical appearance and my weight. I was teachers didn't understand. They were reluc- on the verge of going viral, when the New labelled the "Star Wars Kid." They didn't tant to get involved. So my father called the York Times decided to run a story about me. mean it as a compliment. It soon became police. There was nothing that they could do. That was the turning point. That's when impossible for me to attend classes. ed that I was an inter- O: Were you aware of what people were s They advised us to get a lawyer. media worldwider Q: Get a lawyer for what? national story. Reporters were knocking at ing about you on the Internet? at first, we j st wanted help to manage the my door, calling so often that we had to unplug A: At first, /cs. I wasn't deliberately trying situation. We wanted someone to handle the the telephone. I figured that if I started to find out, but I bit curious. What I media requests, which were overwhelming. give interviews, I would only make things aw s mean. It was violent. People were There was also the question of my education. worse. My fame was forced on me; never telling 1 to commit suicide. I remember I couldn't go to school anymore. The lawyers asked for it. them saying: "You're a pox on humanity"; helped us to find a place where I could write 18 MAY 27, 2013


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