By Jakub Wencel
Not knowing anything about this year’s edition of Tribeca Film Festival’s Documentary Feature winner – Marshall Curry’s ‘Point and Shoot’ – is probably the best way to experience it. Not only because the story that is being told in this barely hour-and-a-half film seems to be utterly unbelievable – and it goes into more and more unexpected direction basically with each progressing minute of the film – but also because one of its greatest strenghts is setting up a premise just in a way to make you think this is just another far-fetched attempt of cheap capitalising on a so-called „modern” and „universal” drama of late-bloomers in the Western world: a group to which we can in a beginning easily include Matthew VanDyne – the main character. Well, to some extent it is – but it stops when it gets serious.
At first we do not have any reason to suspect how serious it would get. „Point and Shoot” begins with Matthew VanDyne, an outcast and overgrown boy from Baltimore, who at the age of twenty-seven decides to turn his life around completely and sets off a self-descrbed „crash course for manhood” to Africa. Though it is as much about getting away from boring, passive life at home, as about fulfilling unrealized childhood dreams of living a life of Hollywood superheroes it injects a significant amount of hope and passion into Matthew’s bloodstream. He spends over a year abroad, without parting with his camera. Everything changes dramatically when he ends up in Libya – just about time when a revolution movement against Gaddafi regime is gearing up. VanDyne unexpectedly decides to invest every piece of himself into helping revolutionaries, eventually becoming one of them himself and serving double-duty on a field of combat – as a reporter, a witness to events of historical significance, and as a fighter.
The turning point of VanDyne’s journey – and therefore for the film itself – is a five-month imprisonment by the Gaddafi’s forces. It marks a point when the „Point and Shoot’s” narrative breaks down – both visually and tonally. We start to realize that the man, whose story we follow is not the same self-important, douchy loner we met back in Baltimore: risks that he started do take significantly change everything that was to think about Matthew VanDyne. It clearly correspondes with pictures on a screen – obviously the director did not have any material from the time of an imprisonment so he fills this gap with a beautifully rendered, dark and moody animated sequence, which – curiously – tries to fool us many times about what is true and what is not.
In the end this balancing between truth and falsehood is the greatest advantage of „Point and Shoot” – the film that tries to convince us it is not what it pretends to be, only to raise stakes higher that anyone can expect. That is also why it works so well as a road movie – because it ultimately gives viewer a rare sense of a completed, satisfactionary journey.