Matt VanDyke, a timid 26-year-old with obsessive-compulsive disorder, left home in Baltimore in 2006 for what he called a “crash course in manhood.” He bought a motorcycle, a video camera and set-off to film himself on a multi-year, 35,000-mile odyssey through North Africa and the Middle East. When revolution broke out in Libya, he joined the rebels fighting Muammar Gaddafi, but was captured, sending his adventure in a frightening new direction. The story is the focus of a new PBS documentary
Quest for Personal Transformation Takes Timid Biker 35,000 Miles to Libyan Revolution, Prison and Self-Recorded Stardom in POV’s ‘Point and Shoot,’ Monday, Aug. 24 on PBS
Documentary by Two-Time Oscar® Nominee Marshall Curry Illustrates the Camera’s Central Role in Documenting—and Shaping—Modern Identity and World Events
“A gripping nonfiction thriller. Riveting . . . an extraordinary and quietly disturbing film.” —David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
Two-time Oscar® nominee Marshall Curry celebrates his 10th anniversary with POV with the amazing tale of Matt VanDyke. A timid 26-year-old with obsessive-compulsive disorder, Matt left home in Baltimore in 2006 for what he called a “crash course in manhood.” He bought a motorcycle and a video camera and set off to film himself on a multi-year, 35,000-mile odyssey through North Africa and the Middle East. When revolution broke out in Libya, he joined the rebels fighting Muammar Gaddafi, but was captured, sending his adventure in a frightening new direction. Point and Shoot joins Matt’s wild ride, exploring how in the age of the selfie we use cameras not just to capture our stories, but to craft them. Watch a trailer here.
Point and Shoot, winner of the Best Documentary Feature Award at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, premiers Monday, Aug. 24 at 10 p.m. on PBS’s POV (Point of View). The film will stream online Aug. 25 – Sept. 23, 2015. Point and Shoot is Curry’s fourth film with POV; two of his previous POV films—Street Fight and If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front—were nominated for Academy Awards®.
Drawing from more than 100 hours of VanDyke’s action-packed travel videos, Curry (with full creative independence in the making of the film) has created a riveting film that asks thorny questions about manhood, personal risk and the nature of war in the era of Facebook.
“My mother says that as a child I always had a deep desire for adventure; movies shaped a lot of who I was,” VanDyke explains, adding that he would sometimes spend 12 hours a day playing video games. He developed severe OCD.
By the time VanDyke was in his twenties, he had earned a master’s degree from Georgetown University. “I wanted to do something extraordinary,” VanDyke, now in his early thirties, says. And so, inspired by Australian reality TV star Alby Mangels, he began filming footage of himself starring in his own nonfiction action movie. Soon he was in Africa filming camels and cobras, and setting up shots of his own adventures. “I wasn’t just watching television anymore.”
The early footage captures VanDyke’s transition from a reclusive couch potato to a swaggering character who carries a sawed-off shotgun as he travels across Northern Africa, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. He takes on a new identity, calling himself “Max Hunter” in his videos.
When the Arab Spring breaks out in Libya in 2011, VanDyke travels to Benghazi to join friends he made during his motorcycle journey in their fight against Gaddafi. With a gun in one hand and a camera in the other, he helps gather weapons, but on a reconnaissance mission he is captured and thrown into solitary confinement for nearly six months. After being freed by rebels, VanDyke declines to go home, instead returning to the front lines. “For the first time in my life, I felt like I was doing something really important.”
Throughout his adventures, we see the strange role that cameras play in modern wars. In Iraq, American soldiers ask him to film them pretending to kick down a door, wanting to be seen on film acting like Hollywood versions of soldiers. In Libya, rebel soldiers use cell phones to record themselves in the midst of combat, hoping to get shots that make them look like fighters in action movies. “Everybody wants something they can share on Facebook,” VanDyke says.
“As a filmmaker,” Curry says, “one of the things that struck me about Matt’s story was the role that cameras played, not simply in documenting his life, but in shaping it. Today, more and more, we tell our stories with cellphone cameras, Facebook and Twitter, and those images that we create affect who we actually become. Who was Matt? Lawrence of Arabia? Don Quixote? Christopher McCandless from Into the Wild? Ernest Hemingway in the Spanish Civil War? How does documenting ourselves change how we act? And what does that mean in a setting of war?”
Point and Shoot is a co-production of Marshall Curry Productions, American Documentary | POV and ITVS.
About Marshall Curry, Director/Producer/Editor:
Marshall Curry is a two-time Academy Award-nominated documentary director. He got his start directing, shooting and editing Street Fight, which follows Cory Booker’s first run for mayor of Newark, N.J. It aired on POV (2004), the BBC and HBO Latin America and was nominated for an Academy Award and an Emmy®. After Street Fight, Curry was the director and producer, as well as one of the cinematographers and editors, of Racing Dreams (2009), which follows three youngsters who dream of racing in NASCAR. The film won numerous awards, including Best Documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival. It had its national television premiere on POV and is being developed into a fiction film by DreamWorks. Curry’s third documentary (director, editor, writer), If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, follows an environmentalist who faced life in prison for burning two timber facilities. It won the Sundance Film Festival award for Best Documentary: Editing, was nominated for an Academy Award and premiered on POV.
Most recently, Curry was executive producer (and additional editor) of Mistaken for Strangers, a heartbreaking comedy rock-doc about sibling rivalry in the band The National. It was the opening night film at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2013 and received rave reviews.
Read the full press release here.
Produced by American Documentary, Inc., POV is public television’s premier showcase for nonfiction films. The series airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on PBS from June to September, with primetime specials during the year. Since 1988, POV has been the home for the world’s boldest contemporary filmmakers, celebrating intriguing personal stories that spark conversation and inspire action. POV discovers fresh new voices and creates interactive experiences that shine a light on social issues and elevate the art of storytelling. With our documentary broadcasts, original online programming and dynamic community engagement campaigns, we are committed to supporting films that capture the imagination and present diverse perspectives.
POV films have won 32 Emmy® Awards, 18 George Foster Peabody Awards, 12 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, three Academy Awards®, the first-ever George Polk Documentary Film Award and the Prix Italia. The POV series has been honored with a Special News & Documentary Emmy Award for Excellence in Television Documentary Filmmaking, two IDA Awards for Best Continuing Series and the NALIP Award for Corporate Commitment to Diversity. More information is available at www.pbs.org/pov.
Major funding for POV is provided by PBS, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and National Endowment for the Arts. Additional funding comes from Wyncote Foundation, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, Nancy Blachman and David desJardins, Bertha Foundation, The Fledgling Fund, Marguerite Casey Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, Ettinger Foundation, and public television viewers. POV is presented by a consortium of public television stations, including KQED San Francisco, WGBH Boston and THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG.