Review: 'Point and Shoot' is a thorough adventure
By Michael Thomas
At some point in our lives we all wish we were out in the world having adventures. Matthew VanDyke took this to its logical extreme, and 'Point and Shoot' chronicles his transition from adventurer to revolutionary.
The very idea of having an adventure has captured the human mind for several centuries, most notably since the fictional Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza set out across the Spanish countryside. Since then, brave adventurers like Indiana Jones have become big-screen idols, and it was this allure that captivated Baltimore resident Matthew VanDyke, who recounts his entire tale to director Marshall Curry.
The film would suffer a lot if it had to rely exclusively on talking heads, but luckily VanDyke carried a camera with him for most of his journey. The beginning of the film covers his many months of traveling across North Africa and the Middle East, and Curry uses just the right clips to establish VanDyke as a far-from-perfect protagonist. Footage shows wonderful landscapes, but also VanDyke falling on his face several times off his motorcycle.
The film reaches a crucial point when he meets a Libyan man named Nori. The two men establish a fast friendship and it inspires VanDyke to visit the African country a few years before the Arab Spring uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi. He returns home to North Africa after years abroad, only to hear about the Libyan uprising in 2011.
It's here that VanDyke brings up a good point — as much as we in far-off places can view events in other parts of the world with concern, the violence means nothing to us unless we can personally relate to it. When Vandyke sees that many of his friends could potentially be killed, he makes the decision to fly back to Libya and assist his friends in the fighting against Gaddafi's regime.
His time in Libya is of course fraught with peril, particularly when he's captured in an ambush and spends five-and-a-half months in solitary confinement. His insights into the nature of war and how people act in front of the camera are fascinating; his musings in front of the camera are somewhat like Pat Tillman's military diaries, as revealed in Jon Krakauer's Where Men Win Glory.
That VanDyke captures so much of the war on film is remarkable, and it provides true insight into his travels. Often these extraordinary stories are not recorded and recounted years later via the use of talking heads (or worse, re-enactments). For the parts in solitary confinement, where VanDyke obviously could not bring a camera, Curry chooses to show them in animation, creating a very surreal experience.