Point and Shoot
Marshall Curry's flawed film documents Matt VanDyke's quest for masculinity
You can tell a lot about a documentary from its closing frames. In Point and Shoot the Oscar-nominated writer-director Marshall Curry asks a summing-up question of his subject Matt VanDyke, an OCD-suffering Baltimore filmmaker turned Arab Spring revolutionary. Having undertaken a five-year ‘crash course in manhood’ to counteract years of being mollycoddled by the women in his life, Curry wonders whether VanDyke has succeeded? There’s a moment’s pause, a vaguely insulted expression flashes across VanDyke’s face, and the film abruptly ends.
Given that VanDyke is not only the focus of Curry’s film he's also its co-creator (he's credited as one of the film's cinematographers and producers), the pair presumably agreed that this would act as a fitting finale. In many ways this largely meaningless, jarring and flat moment epitomises what precedes it.
VanDyke’s story is certainly notable as he goes from being a quasi-tourist filming cobras and camels to taking on a meatier role in North Africa’s recent history, yet at no point does Curry dare to plunge deep into his motivations. What really lay behind VanDyke fighting against Gaddafi’s forces, or returning to the war zone after being incarcerated in a dank prison?
The pair’s close relationship appears to force some of their interplay. So, when VanDyke suddenly gets up to thoroughly wash his hands, it feels rehearsed, as though at some point they realised that they would need to have a shot of his OCD in action. There’s a curious resonance here with VanDyke filming US soldiers pretending to kick open the door of a Baghdad outhouse.
Some of the footage succeeds in presenting the real dangers VanDyke put himself in, but it’s telling that the most potent moment is the camera-phone video of a blood-drenched Gaddafi being caught by rebels while trying to flee. And it’s footage that neither the filmmaker nor his subject can lay any claim on.
Selected release from Fri 16 Jan.