Film Review: Point and Shoot
By Christina Cauterucci
Most of Point and Shoot’s footage wasn’t shot by the doc’s filmmakers, but by its subject: Matthew VanDyke, an obsessive-compulsive Baltimorean whose soul-searching motorcycle trip through North Africa inspires him to join the 2011 Libyan revolution against Moammar Gadhafi. A highly educated 20-something who’s never paid his own bills or lived outside his mother’s house, VanDyke films himself on a “crash course in manhood,” using machine guns, knives, and body armor to create a new persona in the steely image of action-movie heroes he’s envied since childhood. As a character study, Point and Shoot, which took the top documentary prize at the Tribeca Film Festival in April, is more than compelling. We watch as VanDyke becomes unmoored from his home life and addicted to adrenaline, his motorcycle wheelies giving way to target practice with American soldiers in Baghdad and, eventually, a directive to kill. His hypermasculine posturing isn’t unique: Even the Libyan revolutionaries vie for Facebook photos of themselves holding AK-47s. But any critical viewer will chafe at the knowledge that VanDyke’s perspective of the Libyan civil war is one of the few that have bubbled to the top of American discourse. Why does this privileged white dude, this filibuster from Maryland, get to be the one to tell the story of Libyan suffering under Gadhafi, of what it’s like to spend months in Gadhafi’s prisons, of the muddied ethics of freedom fighting? Nevertheless, it’s fascinating to probe the mind of a reckless but well-meaning egotist, even if none of his comrades in Benghazi can share in his happy ending (a thank-God-that’s-over return to his family in the States). Cool story, bro.