The ghost of Ernest Hemingway hovers over Marshall Curry‘s new documentary, a profile of amateur filmmaker and revolutionary Matthew VanDyke. Or, rather, the novelist’s name is perhaps the best way to isolate and identify what is going on beneath this formally simple but thematically intricate film. Point and Shoot is a 21st century incarnation of some very old ideas, fervently held conceptions of what it is to be a man and an American on the world stage. The word “profile” isn’t particularly sufficient as a description, either. This is not simply a document, it is an entire life.
In 2006, VanDyke left Baltimore. He took his motorcycle, his video camera and his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder on a trip to Morocco and did not come back for three years. It was to be a “crash course in manhood.” He crisscrossed North Africa, went across into the Near East and eventually rode all the way to Afghanistan. After that he served as an embedded journalist in Iraq, where he encountered modern warfare for the first time. His last significant stop was Qaddafi’s Libya, then officially not an option for American tourists. He snuck in illegally, made a number of close friends, and felt at home. When he finally returned to the United States he was exhausted, if fulfilled.