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 graduate school, Matthew escaped the U.S. for ‘a crash course in manhood,’ a winding path leads him just there. Motorcycling across North Africa and the Middle East 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. In ‘Point & Shoot‘, Academy Award-nominated director Marshall Curry brilliantly captures Matthew’s remarkable story .
Anticipating ‘Point & Shoot Screening at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival we profile the film’s Director Marshall Curry. The film screens as part of the World Documentary Competition on Saturday, April 19, Monday, April 21, Wednesday, April 23 and Friday, April 25, 2014 in New York City.
Find More Information & Tickets to ‘Point & Shoot’ at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival – HERE
How did you ultimately become involved with the subject of your documentary, Matthew Vandyke? What compelled you to tell his story?
Matt had seen my films (Street Fight, Racing Dreams, If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front) and sent me an email in 2013. He explained that he had recently returned from Libya where he’d gone to help rebels overthrow Gaddafi and that he had hundreds of hours of footage from his experience and a multi-year motorcycle trip that led up to it. We met, and he told me and my wife, Elizabeth Martin (who is also my producing partner) his story. We thought it was terrific– rich with questions about adventure, idealistic passion, crossing cultures, transformation, and the way we craft ourselves. After he left, we talked about it for hours, and generating those kinds of conversations is the reason I make documentaries. So we decided to try to simply replicate the experience we had just had: sitting down with a fascinating stranger– like on a bus, or in a bar– and hearing his amazing story. So a few months later, we did the first interview which makes up the spine of the film.
Describe the collaborative process between Matthew Vandyke and yourself during the making of ‘Point and Shoot’. Were there ever points of contention on how the story should be told, and if so what were they?
When Matt first approached me I explained that I only worked on projects where I had complete creative control and independence, and he agreed to that. He had creative input, however, mostly through the fact that he had shot so much of the material that we see on screen. There were hundreds of hours of amazing shots of motorcycling through Northern Africa and the Middle East, of fighting in the Libyan revolution, and you really feel Matt behind those shots. He also saw a number of cuts as I was editing, and gave feedback about them, to make sure everything was accurate. As with any film, there were some differences in how I told the story compared with how he would have told it if he were directing, but I think he’s generally happy, and the final product has turned out really well.
What was the greatest challenge in developing/producing ‘Point and Shoot’? How did you overcome this challenge?
For Matt, the years of shooting were incredibly difficult—he was in stressful and often dangerous situations. For me, the editing was quite hard (though by comparison pretty mild!) I spent about a year editing (Matthew Hamachek, who worked with me on Racing Dreams and If a Tree Falls did some great Additional Editing). When I shoot a film, I am consciously anticipating story structure and shooting with that in mind—what is the material I need to tell this moment? But in this case, we were working with hundreds of hours of footage that we hadn’t shot, so that sometimes created a challenge. In the end we decided not to squeeze it too hard, not to try to answer every question that we ask, not to tie everything up with a bow, Hollywood-style. It’s a film that challenges audiences to think for themselves.
How has telling this story affected you as a person? What did you learn? What do you hope others will take away from ‘Point and Shoot’?
Making the film has been a powerful experience for me. It has generated all kinds of questions and deep reflection about war, commitment, growing up, and the role of cameras in our lives. It is not a polemical film, though, and we don’t have a particular message that we want people to take away from it. It’s more of a feast for people who like to chew their own food. I think people will walk out of the theater and talk—and think– about the film for a long time.
Why do feel The Tribeca Film Festival is the right venue for the World Premiere of ‘Point and Shoot’?
I have had films at Sundance and other festivals, and have had great experiences there. But Tribeca is my home-town festival, and is an incredible place to premiere a film. My first film, Street Fight, was launched at Tribeca, and had a great run, ultimately getting nominated for an Academy Award. And my second film, Racing Dreams, also premiered at Tribeca (where it won the Jury prize for Best Doc) and got a lot of nice attention there. Last year I Executive Produced and did some editing on Mistaken for Strangers, a documentary about The National which was the opening night film for Tribeca, and that went really well too. I think the folks who work there—the programmers, the staff, the people in publicity—are really smart, generous, and fun.
About The Filmmaker
Marshall Curry got his start directing, shooting, and editing with the highly-acclaimed Street Fight (2005), which was nominated for an Emmy and an Academy Award. His next film, Racing Dreams (2009), won numerous awards, including Best Documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival. Curry’s third documentary, If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, won the Sundance Film Festival award for Best Documentary Editing and was nominated for an Academy Award. Curry was Executive Producer of Mistaken for Strangers, which was the opening night film at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2013.