Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Visit the Amazing "Marwencol" tonight on PBS' "Independent Lens"

PBS presents the astounding, riveting and beautiful documentary film Marwencol this evening (check your local listings) on the Independent Lens series, and it's a must-watch. Produced in 2010 and a success on the festival circuit, the film tells the incredible survival story of Mark Hogancamp, a New York man who nearly died in a savage beating but recovered through an ultimately theraputic artistic vision that found him the creator, overseer, chronicler and inhabitant of an imaginary WWII world he named Marwencol.

Populated by 12" dolls (Barbie or classic G.I. Joe-sized), Mark's 1/6th scale creation goes far past mere imagination into the place where real art and drama is forged, as you can see when you look at any of the absolutely sublime photographs he has taken. Reminiscent of the miniature figure photos of artist David Levinthal (someone I've followed for a long time), who since the mid-1970s has utilized toy soldiers and other figures to create haunting photographic tableaus, Hogancamp's Marwencol works are both realistic and fantastical. From Mark's own experiences, memories, acquaintances, interests and fears came the characters and storyline of the Marwencol saga. It's a dazzling conglomeration of heroics, magic, sacrifice, brutality, sexuality, action and adventure worthy of -- no, better than -- most any Hollywood production.

Director Jeff Malmberg's documentary is both the story of the place called Marwencol and Mark Hogancamp's creative and healing process. Of course Hogancamp's now experiencing no small degree of fame because of Marwencol, but that's not why Marwencol exists. You'll understand more when you watch tonight, and if you miss it, Marwencol has just shown up as an Instant Watch on Netflix and is also available on DVD. But do try to catch it on PBS -- it was a great acquisition for them and it's good to watch your local PBS outlet!

Visit the official Marwencol website for more background information on the project and on Mark Hogancamp, and there's also information where you can donate money to help Mark keep Marwencol thriving. I can't think of a better way to support the arts. Be sure to look through the galleries of photos; they are utterly amazing.

You should also visit the Independent Lens website for more info on this and their other great films that help make PBS still the smart choice for viewers all across the country. PBS often gets forgotten in the great rush of cable channels to proclaim that they invented or own certain genres, which of course were all pioneered on PBS stations decades ago. Cooking shows, reality shows, nature docs, serialized drama -- PBS was there first and we shouldn't ever forget it.

I have to confess that I now suffer from a bit of "Marwencol-y", that is, the desire to visit Marwencol and cavort with the denizens there. I don't think I'm the only one, either; I'm sure it will happen to you, too, after you watch.


Jane said...

This is exactly why PBS should be supported, both by private individual donations and by tax dollars. Throughout the ages, sophisticated culture's governments have supported the arts, and that is precisely what a series like this is...art. I can't wait to watch it and thank you so much for the heads up!

Suzi said...

This played at the Palm Springs Festival in January and was a big hit with the audiences. Wish I had seen it.