Point and Shoot
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What does it mean to be a man? That’s something every male throughout history has asked himself at one time or another. It’s a rite of passage. The search has sent many a man down roads on which they wish they’d never ventured.
For Matthew VanDyke, that question lead him to a rebellion thousands of miles away from his home in Baltimore, a 5 1/2-month prison stint and the loss of many friends whom he fought alongside. And still, his answer to that age-old question remained elusive.
“Point and Shoot” is a very unique piece of cinema. Many times, we’re shown documentaries that reenact pivotal moments in a person’s life. Here, director Marshall Curry lets the video footage VanDyke shot during his “adventures” with the Libyan Rebel Army speak for itself.
The Baltimore-native VanDyke grew up in a divorced home but never felt the pressures of life itself. He describes his life as being a sheltered one, giving insight into his life such as his mom doing his laundry and buying him groceries while living in her basement after he graduated from Georgetown University.
Despite this privileged existence, he speaks of longing for a bigger life, like the ones he saw in the movies and TV shows that helped shape his childhood and adolescence. Inspired by Australian filmmaker Alby Mangels, whose travel/safari films depicted the type of living on the edge life he wanted to lead, VanDyke makes plans to make his own adventure film and takes off to Northern Africa.
VanDyke is like most men, except for one thing — he suffers from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. His disorder is shown early in the documentary when he excuses himself to wash his hands mid-sentence. It’s his OCD that fuels his desire to find the true meaning of being a man.
Setting out on his “crash course in manhood,” VanDyke travels across Northern Africa, winding his way all the way through the Middle East. Trying to recreate Mangels’ bravado filmmaking style, VanDyke sets out alone on a motorcycle and an adventure that sees him attacked by mobs, staying in filthy hotels and buying weapons to help keep himself safe.
After breaking his collarbone during a wreck on his motorcycle, VanDyke’s OCD hits hyperdrive and he confesses to his girlfriend he can’t leave his hotel room. She challenges him (“Why are you such a coward?”), which sets in motion a series of events that take the well-educated, sheltered American and thrust him into the middle of the war to overthrow Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
He joins up with a friend he met during his travels and begins fighting with a ragtag group of rebel fighters who were outnumbered, outarmed and had nothing going for them except the passion to see Gaddafi out of power.
His team is ambushed and he is arrested, yet even after escaping prison following 5 1/2 months, he still refuses to leave. But when he emerges, he finds the tide of the war had shifted in those few months and Gaddafi’s days were now numbered.
What is most striking about the images in the film is the amount of people holding cell phones taping the events. As bombs and bullets fly, there seem to be just as many, if not more, cell phones being held as there are weapons. It was a war played out in a digital-enhanced world, and VanDyke was one of the lead characters — just like the movies he loved.
“Point and Shoot” is an intimate look at a man with OCD and how it affect his life in both positive and negative ways. VanDyke is like many men of his generation who are on a quest to find meaning, but his disorder fueled an adventure that led him literally on the edge of life and death.
After everything he has been through, and the strides he has made since starting his journey, when asked if he has been successful on his crash course in manhood, VanDyke simply shrugs and isn’t able to answer the question.
VanDyke seems to be a man still in search of who he is and struggling to find a suitable answer.
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