POINT AND SHOOT: Tribeca Film Festival Review 2014
By Joshua Handler
4 (out of 4) Stars
Two-time Oscar-nominee Marshall Curry's Point and Shoot is a textbook example of how to make a compelling documentary. Point and Shoot tells the story of Matthew VanDyke, an American who decided that his life needed a little adventure. So, he set out to drive around the Arab world on a motorcycle and film his journey. Along the way, he befriended a Libyan man, Nouri. After VanDyke returned to America, the Arab Spring erupted and he felt as if it was his duty to fight with the rebels in Libya alongside Nouri. Through VanDyke's footage of his travels and of the war, interviews, and vivid animated sequences by Joe Posner, Point and Shoot brings VanDyke's story to vivid life.
From the moment Point and Shoot started through the minute it ended, I was captivated. VanDyke's story is so out of the ordinary that watching him tell the story in an interview would have been fascinating on its own. VanDyke's footage of his travels is intimate and funny and brings his stories to life. As interesting as that footage is, nothing compares to his war footage. In most other documentaries about war, we must watch news footage of the conflict or footage shot by professional camera crews from the press, but in Point and Shoot, we see VanDyke's footage which is personal and emotional and has an immediacy that no news footage could ever capture. This footage is very much like the that which comprises Jehane Noujaim's excellent documentary The Square, as that film is a first-hand, ground-level view of a revolution unfolding.
VanDyke is a great subject not only because of his story, but because of his openness with Curry. VanDyke bares it all in front of the camera, not holding anything back. I felt as if I had gotten to know him so well through the film that by the time the 83 minutes were over, it seemed like I knew him like a friend.
It takes a documentarian of Curry's caliber to create a documentary out of material this important and sprawling. While the film covers a large amount of time with a lot of information, Curry managed to create a coherent story told with a relentless pace. Most documentaries are too long and hit a point where they slow up. However, Point and Shoot doesn't have this problem. Through his multi-media approach, Curry crafted a compelling story that unfolds like a thriller. We never know what's going to happen next. The only certainty in this story is that VanDyke will live, as he is the one telling the story.
Overall, Point and Shoot is a superior documentary in every way. It is a multi-dimensional portrait of a unique man, it is a powerful story of war, and it is an important historical document. How many movies can one say that about?