Point and Shoot

Point and Shoot

Part Boyhood (2014) and part Full Metal Jacket (1987), the extraordinary coming-of-age documentary Point and Shoot follows a boy’s harrowing journey to manhood. We see him grow from naïve innocent kid to hardened revolutionary soldier choosing to put himself in the middle of the most dangerous Middle East conflict since the Iraq war.

The world is a scary and dangerous place, and so many of us have lost or given up on that time honored tradition of striking out on our own, making a name for ourselves in the world by going into the unknown and facing our fears.

But what if we had been less afraid and more courageous or foolish? Point and Shoot is the story of just such a person, Matthew Vandyke, raised in a middle class family in Baltimore, he is the sheltered only child of divorced parents and a pampered kid who had dreams of becoming the next Indiana Jones or Luke Skywalker like many of us did.

This incredible quest for adventure and manhood would have been unthinkable even for the sanest and most physically conditioned thrill seeker, but for the scrawny Matthew, who is diagnosed with OCD, has strong phobias of causing harm to others and compulsively washes his hands, it’s almost inconceivable.

Just out of University with a degree in Middle-Eastern studies, he decides to travel through all the Arab countries in North Africa on a 35,000 mile motorcycle trip, hoping the experience will make him into a man and the person he wants to be while overcoming his phobias.

The Birth of Max Hunter

Matt admits to being inspired by his boyhood heroes he watched growing up on television and Hollywood movies like Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Before he leaves on his quest, Matthew decides to give himself an alter-ego—calling himself Max Hunter—and buys a camera to document every aspect of his trip with himself as the hero.

He spends three years traveling the Arab nations and makes many strong friendships along the way, especially a good natured, easy going soulful hippie from Libya. While in Afghanistan, he visits many of the places where American troops are deployed and helps by becomes a war correspondent. The troops take a liking to him and eventually train him in weapons use. Now Max starts to feel more like his movie heroes.

Matthew seems more serious about life than most and takes his friendships and his challenges seriously. So when revolution breaks out in Libya and his Libyan friends are describing the violence and murder that the ruthless dictator Muammar Gadaffi is inflicting on them while protesting, like Luke Skywalker he immediately feels he must go back and help them.

Academy Award nominated director Marshall Curry, known for If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (2011) and Street Fight (2005), synthesized hundreds of hours of footage taken by Matthew on his travels and skillfully edited them into a compelling and riveting documentary.

Smuggling himself back into the now war-torn Libya, he manages to meet up with his friends. What follows is nothing short of incredible and shocking, giving us an intimate view of war and revolution in that country with unparalleled footage of the fall of a forty year totalitarian regime. The closest thing I can compare it to is another war documentary called BattleGround: 21 Days on the Empire’s Edge (2004) by Stephen Marshall.

Point and Shoot will leave you humbled and inspired, and is a fascinating commentary on the meaning of manhood, proving oneself by going out in the world isolated from family support, and finding ones identity through the power of images and associations with the people and cultures that become a part of our life.

point and shoot

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