This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



Mark Hogancamp tries to rebuild his life in a carefully constructed alternate reality(photo by Tom Putnam)

MARWENCOL (Jeff Malmberg, 2010)
285 Kent Ave. at South Second St.
January 14-20, $10-$12, 8:00

Named Best Documentary at numerous film festivals across the country, MARWENCOL offers a surprising look inside the creative process and the fine line that exists between art and reality. On April 8, 2000, Mark Hogancamp was nearly beaten to death outside a bar in his hometown of Kingston, New York. He spent nine days in a coma and more than a month in the hospital before being released, suffering severe brain damage that has left his memory a blur. To help put his life back together, he began using toys and dolls — Barbies, celebrity replicas, army men — to re-create his personal journey. He makes dolls of his friends and relatives, the people he works with, and others, constructing an alternate WWII-era universe he calls Marwencol, complete with numerous buildings and plenty of Nazis. He captures the detailed story in photographs that are not only fascinating to look at but that also help him figure out who he was and who he can be. This miniature three-dimensional world is reminiscent of the two-dimensional one carefully fashioned by outsider artist Henry Darger in his fifteen-thousand-page manuscript, The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion, which also features an alternate reality involving military battles set amid stunning artwork. Director, producer, and editor Jeff Malmberg makes no judgments about Hogancamp, and asks the same of the audience. In his first full-length film, Malmberg shares the compelling story of a deeply troubled, flawed man suddenly forced to begin again, using art and creativity to bring himself back to life. He speaks with Hogancamp’s mother, his old roommate, the prosecutor who handled his case, and others who are first seen proudly holding the doll Hogancamp made of them. And Malmberg doesn’t turn away from the more frightening aspects of Hogancamp’s daily existence. MARWENCOL is an unforgettable portrait of lost identity and the long road to redemption.

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