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Point and Shoot - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Point and Shoot
Directing: B-
Writing: B
Cinematography: C+
Editing: B+

Point and Shoot is the kind of movie you need convincing to stick through. To many it will be worth seeing in the end, but only after much wondering. The opening shot does not seem to portend well: Matthew Vandyke, sporting terrible-looking, shoulder-length hair, in front of a white wall, showing us and explaining his knives and armor vest. He even turns around to show the vest in its entirety -- twice.

Perhaps this is partly to show Vandyke's early naiveté about his intended North Africa motorcycle adventures. In that sense, it works. But it also shows a real lack of knowledge and sophistication when it comes to camera equipment and production values. The sound quality is terrible. The picture looks like camcorder footage.

And Vandyke really never stops apparently regarding himself a "filmmaker," even though it's clear he has no training or experience -- not just in the combat he winds up participating in, but in actually being the kind of documentarian he intends to be.

I'm not sure director/writer Marshall Curry knows much more than Vandyke. With the exception of some lovely animated sequencing illustrating Vandyke's five months spent in a Libyan prison, the cinematography here is notably lacking. Granted, one might expect the footage of a helmet-mounted camera to be ridiculously shaky. But even Curry makes some odd choices, such as shooting his interviews with Vandyke's girlfriend in their entirety with her standing by her kitchen counter. Shooting Vandyke's interviews as he sits in his desk chair makes a little more sense, but a more standard single-tone backdrop would have been less distracting.

And then there's Vandyke's own misguided intentions as he goes on his adventures. He says he led a sheltered childhood (this much is clear), and after college he wanted to take a drastic "crash-course in manhood." Somehow, to him, this means video-documenting his travels through the countries on the south of the Mediterranean. A whole lot of Point and Shoot is dedicated to these adventures, and Vandyke honestly comes off a little annoying.

But then, finally, the Libyan Revolution happens, and Point and Shoot becomes truly compelling -- perhaps halfway through the film. Vandyke had already made friends in Libya, one a particularly good one, on his first visit. His girlfriend, at least as portrayed here, is surprisingly understanding about his many travels to the other side of the world. But she is also understandably upset when, as soon as revolution begins in Libya, he makes a snap decision to go straight back and help his friends.

Even there, he goes with camera in one hand, and gun in the other. He says he got some "training" on the use of weapons when visiting troops on an earlier trip to Iraq. Vandyke talks a lot about making a film of his own, which apparently this Marshall Curry guy did instead, using a ton of his footage. And Vandyke is captured fairly soon after going back to Libya -- hence the five months in prison. But even after a Human Rights Watch representative urges him to return home after he escapes, Vandyke goes straight back to his friends to help with the fighting.

And again, he keeps his camera on hand. He struggles with being "a filmmaker" versus a legitimate revolutionary. Give me a break. I think maybe his Libyan friends have bigger problems than Vandyke's philosophical struggles, and his OCD issues with spilled sugar (for real). Here is where Matthew Vandyke the Annoying comes back through a little.

Still, it's clear that the entire experience profoundly changed and affected him, and matured him a great degree. It's a fascinating personal journey to see him go through. It's just treated as a little more significant in the grand scheme of things than perhaps it deserves. Had he spent more time focusing those cameras on the friends he was helping, this might have been a better film than there merely good one we got.

Matthew Vandyke winds up documenting his own involvement in the Libyan Revolution in POINT AND SHOOT.

Overall: B
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