2014 TFF Review: Point and Shoot

Directed by Marshall Curry
Starring Matt VanDyke

‘Point and Shoot’ Continues to Screen at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival on Wednesday, April 23 & Thursday, April 24, 2014

Marshall Curry is a two-time Academy Award nominated documentary filmmaker. In his 2005 documentary, ‘Street Fight‘, Marshall tackles politics documenting a mayoral campaign in Newark NJ. In his 2009 documentary, ‘Racing Dreams‘, he turns his lens toward three kids who dream of becoming professional NASCAR drivers. Now, in 2014, Curry returns to Tribeca for the World Premiere of his latest film, ‘Point and Shoot‘, which tells a harrowing and often times humorous story of a young man’s struggle for political revolution and personal transformation.

The story centers around Matt VanDyke, a complex character with a curious disposition and a deep yearning for adventure. Matt, seated back in his chair and with a candid demeanor, begins by telling us about his early years and what it was that ultimately drove him to set off on his journey of self-discovery, or as he likes to call it – “a crash course in manhood.” Matt was an only child who lived what he considered to be a privileged childhood. He didn’t any any friends and grew up on a steady diet of video games and Hollywood movies. Hollywood heroes like Lawrence of Arabia and Indiana Jones truly inspired him. In 2006, he left his home in Baltimore to set off on his journey of manhood. He bought a motorcycle and a video camera and began a three-year, 35,000-mile motorcycle trip through Northern Africa and the Middle East.

While traveling, he struck up an unlikely friendship with a Libyan hippie and when revolution broke out in Libya, Matt joined his friend in the fight against dictator Muammar Gaddafi. With a gun in one hand and a camera in the other, Matt fought in the war while also capturing it all on camera. While fighting on the front lines he was captured by Gaddafi forces and locked up in solitary confinement for six months, before being released by invading rebel forces. During his six month lockup the war had shifted in favor of the Rebels, but was not over. He returned to the battlefield and fought alongside his friends until Gaddafi was ousted.

This was a deeply engaging film. Curry raised many questions throughout the documentary but steered clear of spoon-feeding answers to the audience, instead leaving it up the the viewers to think, discuss and to draw their own conclusions. Curry was wise to take this approach as many the questions raised are debatable and not so easily answered.

Throughout the documentary Matt pointed out some interesting observations about how we perceive ourselves and and how we want others to perceive us. He explains early in the film that he was not just looking for an adventure, but to cast himself as a character in an adventure movie. American soldiers in Iraq were also using Matt’s camera to shape their images. Matt says, “They wanted to be filmed acting like soldiers, even though that’s what they actually were.” The rest of us are not so different than Matt or those American soldiers. Just as he used his camera to tell a story, we too use our cameras to tell stories, posting images of ourselves on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, to shape our identities. This influence of movie and television on society could very well be a double-edged sword. On one hand these larger than life heroes could influence and inspire men, giving them the courage and bravado thy need to fight against a powerful authoritative regime. On the other hand, these same heroes could inspire someone to walk through the hallways of a school putting down anyone who crosses their path like Neo in the Matrix.

Point and Shoot‘ raises many other questions. What makes us do the things we do? How should we spend our lives? What are our moral responsibilities when people are suffering far away? How do we define “manhood” or “adulthood”? These questions resonated with me long after I left the theater and I found myself searching, digging deep for answers.

– by Stephen Reilly

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