Point and Shoot
At first glance, Matthew VanDyke—a shy Baltimore native with a sheltered upbringing and a tormenting OCD diagnosis—is the last person you’d imagine on the front lines of the 2011 Libyan revolution. But after finishing grad school and escaping the U.S. for "a crash course in manhood," a winding path leads him just there. Motorcycling across North Africa and the Middle East and spending time as an embedded journalist in Iraq, Matthew lands in Libya, forming an unexpected kinship with a group of young men who transform his life. Matthew joins his friends in the rebel army against Gaddafi, taking up arms (and a camera). Along the way, he is captured and held in solitary confinement for six terrifying months. Academy Awa
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★★★½ review by Ruth on Letterboxd
One of those festival near-misses which subsequently lingered as something to eventually catch up with. Point and Shoot scopes out an adolescent machismo fantasy playing out in reality. Treated with bemusement, empathy, inconclusiveness and vicariousness, Point and Shoot opens a window into the psychology of what drives young men to wanderlust in search of rite of passage, who crave a “crash course in manhood”. This is a relevant topic given the problematic matter of youthful men heading abroad to locate a cause and join in the fight, an impressionable persona which the slight, unproven, self-involved sterility of Matthew VanDyke embodies utterly, and which Point and Shoot illustrates powerfully.
The key to Marshall Curry’s Point and Shoot is the tender capture of this mindset. Curry does not condone, nor celebrate, regarding VanDyke’s tale with the required detachment. One suspects Curry perceives his subject as a sheltered bore, nevertheless VanDyke comes conveniently packaged with a filmmaker’s bounty. VanDyke films his various wanderings with selfie-esque zeal. His precious footage charts his cliché motorcycle diaries, and how he eventually journeyed into the revolutionary heart and ground zero of history in the making. Curry latches on to the latent rich themes, simplistic characterisation, adventurist spirit, idiot abroad recklessness and bittersweet arc realisation ripe in the material, which renders this documentary production a no-brainer.
The everyman adrenaline of this character journey is unmistakable. It would be easy to romanticise wannabe action man VanDyke’s Choose Your Own Adventure happenstance lark into the Libyan Civil War, just as easily as it would be to lambast his ludicrous naivety and filming addiction, and it certainly has all that in spades for particular lines of consumption, but above all this is one man’s life coming of age before our very eyes, as he captures some precious footage which Curry utilises handsomely to paint a sincere archetype. His endearing flaws provide comic relief throughout, his conflict in shooting an identifiable antagonist is poetic, and the juxtaposition of his OCD and the down and dirty activity requirements is delicious. The captured real-time immaturity, senseless abandon and desire to be included and lend a hand lays him bare as an earnest, corruptible personality type, providing window through the persistent guarded façade seen through his present day reflections and rationalisations. The audience is moved when he finds something to care about, something to remember, something to place him on solid ground, something to be careful what you wish for.
VanDyke went out to find his story, and he found it within a bigger story which purged a regime and gripped the world. An external concern helps build a sense of self, taking him beyond desperation for self-definition and external recognition, enabling him to turn the camera away from himself and subsume himself into a greater concern (a kind assessment). One might bemoan that it takes a figure like VanDyke and his flawed worldview to bring elevated interest into a Libyan slice of life, but both as a contextual trove and timeless chase of meaning, Point and Shoot captures the dynamic mutual collision between the preliminary individual and the worlds to be found out there.
★★★½ review by Nick Vass on Letterboxd
Matt VanDyke, a reticent OCD-ridden UNI graduate, left his humdrum Baltimore home and kindly girlfriend to overthrow Gaddafi in the Libyan uprising. With harrowing first-hand footage à la 5 Broken Cameras, VanDyke set off on his motorcycle from Europe, Gibraltar and Africa to ride through the most dangerous hot-spots. One remarkable sequence even makes you witness the protagonist's company being ambushed by Gaddafi troops. It's a raw, intense moment which takes you right into the heart of this revolution. Sure, it's undeniable that Point and Shoot bases almost every narrative consequence on the footage itself, but I was most amazed at the doc's two-fold handling: you never lose sight of a man's purpose, maturity and self-discovery, but gain an eloquent understanding of a cultural hysteria at the same time. Props to the vividly portrayed charcoal animation sequence which came from nowhere. It's a re-creation of the six months VanDyke spent when he was locked up in a Libyan jail.
★★★½ review by Mark Dujsik on Letterboxd
Point and Shoot is a study of overcompensation. The film's subject had, as he puts it, a "sheltered and spoiled" childhood, playing at games of imaginary adventure ("I'm the new Indiana Jones," he exclaims in footage from a home movie) while his mother warns him to be careful of the rocks he's examining. He went to college while living in the basement of his childhood home. He received his master's degree from Georgetown University, which is about an hour's drive away from his Baltimore home. Through all of this, his mother and grandmother still did his laundry. Naturally, the most logical way to escape this shielded existence was to fight on the side of the rebels against Muammar Gaddafi's government in the 2011 Libyan Civil War.
See my full review at Mark Reviews Movies.
★★★★ review by 2unique on Letterboxd
We may see hints of a narcissist but I think he knows he has issues. I liked the film and for me it's put together well with really great footage. I think it's wrong to judge the film on if he is likeable or not. I personally didn't have any attachment with him. In that aspect the documentary was not out to make him look great otherwise I wouldn't be thinking he is a narcissist! He seemed lost in life and was trying to find his place trying to fit in and feel important. He even hinted that he was self aware and didn't maybe portray things as they would happen as he was aware of the camera. Other times he would play as a alter ego however he himself was looking back and pointing it out so he knew he had/has issues. You also can't deny it still is a crazy story despite his personality.
★★★½ review by alex on Letterboxd
this is an extremely enjoyable film, working with a fantastic subject, and incredibly rich material.
you notice curry's jabs at a narrative in his questioning, and there's definitely an undercurrent of investigating the idea of manliness as it is depicted in media.
the discourse around killing another person is a completely fascinating insight into war in the 21st century.
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