As the Star Wars crew camps in the Abu Dhabi desert, two Dubai-based fan teams recreate their versions

Published April 26th, 2014 - 04:00 GMT

It’s a quarter past 12 in the middle of the desert on a scorching Friday afternoon. The sun’s at its simmering best and the hot sands, almost blowing in your face, at its unforgiving worst.

Almost nonchalant, a group of a dozen sweaty men – all but two Filipinos, one Briton and an Australian - are busy dressing up, for a while now, in what seems like an intricate array of robotic costumes to curious onlookers near Mirdif.

“Oh.. it’s the gorilla,” exclaims one of them looking at the 30-year-old Filipino nurse, Reuel Ice Abellon applying the finishing touches to his transformation into Chewbacca - a ‘gentle, hairy, non-English speaking’ 200-year-old wookiee that’s one of the fictional bipeds from the universe of Star Wars, almost seven feet tall and inhumanly strong.

“At first I thought they had all fallen from the sky,” said a confused Egyptian who, like several others stopping by to take a look, obviously had no idea about Hollywood’s fifth highest grossing film series of all time.

Even as the crew from the Star Wars camps in the deserts of Abu Dhabi for shooting the seventh in the nine-picture franchise, two Dubai-based fan teams – Order 66 and Vader’s First 501st Legion set out to recreate their own versions of the series for XPRESS – enacting, exclusively for our cameras, the famous scenes from ‘a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away’.

Real pleasure

“It’s always a real pleasure for us. Call us anywhere in the region and we will be there, dressed up in your favourite Star Wars character,” says Ian Trebinski, an ‘executive officer’ of the UAE Outpost of the 501st Legion, an all-volunteer organisation that promotes interest in Star Wars worldwide by making and wearing quality costumes.

The 37-year old from South-ampton, England, posed as a Stormtrooper, the main ground force of the evil Galactic Empire, for us. By the time he had managed to get into his all-white tin-like suit, with help from his fellow ‘legionnaire’, Australian Nick Bird, the temperatures were past 37C. “It sure is physically very demanding, but we have got used to it,” said the department head of an offshore oil and gas company who had bought the kit for a little over £2,000 (Dh12,000). Trebinski is licensed by Lucasfilm, the company formed by Star Wars creator George Lucas, to use Star Wars costumes in the UAE, especially for charity and other events.

There may be no such tag for Filipino Giovan Anthony Paz, but the Star Wars fanatic who has watched and analysed all six films is surely a force of his own. The man who calls himself the father of Order 66, Dubai, the group of 30-odd Star Wars fans who love emulating their favourite on-screen character, says, “We are all united by the love of Star Wars.” His team of 10 passionate character players enacted Darth Vader, a good Jedi turned villain, bounty hunter Boba Fett, a Tusken Raider or Sand People and trobot characters C3PO and R2D2 among others.

The 39-year-old designs magazines by day and swaps the glossy pages for costumes by night. Those that aren’t available in stores are made by hand in a small storeroom-turned-workshop near his residence in Discovery Gardens.

“It’s the passion that drives me. I try my best to replicate each and every costume by the minutest details,” said the man from Manila who’s spent over Dh35,000 in making 45 costumes in the last three years. Twenty-eight of those are dedicated to Star Wars only and were prize winners at Comicon 2013.

“At the end of the day, it’s just a nice feeling to be recognised for something that we don’t get paid for otherwise,” said the father of two. His team won the Comicon 2014 as well, a prize of Dh5,000, but for recreating characters from Hell Boy this time.

Quick facts:

Star Wars is an American film series created by George Lucas.

The opening of each film begins with static text: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....”

The series is about conflict between good and evil represented by Jedi and their evil counterpart, Sith.

The first film in the Star Wars series was released in 1977.

It was followed by two sequels – The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi. Sixteen years later, the first in a new prequel trilogy of films – the Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith – was released at three-year intervals.

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