Soldier of Selfies
By Jeffrey Wells
Last night I finally watched Marshall Curry‘s Point and Shoot, which won the Best Documentary prize at last April’s Tribeca Film Festival. It’s a handsomely captured, smoothly edited doc about the Middle-Eastern adventures of Matthew VanDyke, an enterprising, financially fortified, highly educated guy who went on a manly motorcycle journey of self-discovery throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East between 2007 and 2009. His most significant stopover during that trip was in Libya, where he made friends and discovered special feelings of kinship for that country’s culture. VanDyke went back to the States but returned to Libya in 2011 to join the fight against Muammar Gaddafi.
VanDyke shot video of nearly everything he did and saw (except for the six months he spent as a prisoner of Gaddafi forces), and this, combined with q & a he did with Curry, is what comprises the film. Anyone who’s ever thought he/she spends too much time staring at screens and needs to somehow get out in the world and taste real experience and adventure needs to see this. It’s a kind of Joseph Conrad story on one hand, humming with the thrill of exotic encounters in strange, scenically beautiful places and paths that lead to dark detours, but it’s also a story of a guy who clearly likes to shoot rather than talk or look inward. Like everyone else who travels he likes to capture shot after shot of himself doing this or that as a kind of proof, and truth be told there’s a tone of narcissism in all of this. But it’s not an uninteresting film. At the end of the day VanDyke is one of the few who can say “I didn’t sit in my home and watch YouTube videos of the Arab Spring revolt — I was there, I joined it. I wore fatigues, I grew a beard, I killed a guy, and bullets repeatedly whizzed over my head.”