Directed by Jeff Malmberg
Refreshingly naturalistic in its portrayal of hate-crime-victim-turned-innovative-photographer Mark Hogencamp, Jeff Malmberg's Marwencol is an invigorating testament to how much can be achieved in a documentary with little more than a genuinely captivating subject at its core. Following massive brain damage and nearly total memory loss after a brutal beating by five teenagers outside of a Kingston, NY bar, Kingston native Hogencamp's world is no longer defined by the societal norms it once was: Rather than working a steady job or spending time with a girlfriend, Hogencamp's existence is defined by Marwencol, a town comprised of 12-inch dolls and miniature buildings that he's built in his backyard. Each Marwencol resident represents someone significant in Hogancamp's life—his best friend, his mother, and his fetching neighbor are all present—and each is also a character in the astonishingly complex narrative of British soldiers and German soldiers, the SS, and a league of femme fatales that their architect has constructed for them.
The film takes an exciting turn when Tod Lippy of Esopus magazine takes note of Hogencamp's story and arranges for an exhibition of Hogencamp's stunning Marwencol photographs in New York City. Uneasy at first about a public display of such a personal nature, Hogencamp quickly decides NYC it is; if people aren't to accept his quirky fashion choices in Greenwich Village (he has a certain fondness for wearing high heels), then where? Watching the exhibition unfold, with many curious spectators in attendance and dozens of Hogencamp's photos on display, offers the kind of spontaneous magic that could comes only from the spectacularly unpredictable nature of real life filmed simply. And as Hogencamp exits his wholly successful opening sporting the high heels he so badly wanted to wear at the night's beginning but didn't out of fear of public humiliation, he becomes an unexpected icon for the American dream of today: A totally unforeseen life change thrust upon him well into his 30s, Hogencamp, like so many Americans affected by factors beyond their control—whether it be violence, poverty, prejudice—soldiers on back to his home, ready for another day in Marwencol.�‚
Opens October 8 at IFC Center