50 Years of SIFF: Marwencol


USA | 2010 | 82 min. | Jeff Malmberg

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50 Years of SIFF

Recovering from a brutal attack, which robbed him of 38 years of memories, accidental artist Mark Hogancamp creates dioramas of the fictional World War II Belgian town of Marwencol in his backyard, and then photographs them to stunning effect. Using GI Joe dolls, the characters are based on people in his life, most of whom he can’t actually remember. CLARE GARVIN CHOICE.

Seattle International FIlm Festival 2010 Grand Jury Prize: Documentary.


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“This mesmerizing documentary had me from start to surprising finish, and it hasn’t left my list of favorite documentaries since. One of my favorite-ever Festival memories is doing the Q&A with director Jeff Malmberg at the Harvard Exit, and us calling the subject (who is quite the character, youll discover) on Jeff’s cell phone and putting it up to the mic for the audience to hear.”--Clare Garvin, SIFF Associate Director of Digital Marketing (and former Seattle International Film Festival programmer)

At first glance, the series of perfectly-composed photographs of tough GI Joe dolls inhabiting a scale version of a war-torn town look like they are straight out of a World War II movie. You might expect Marwencol to be some sort of commentary on modern military conflicts, but the photos create stories that are surprisingly sincere. When you learn more about the artist you find out why. In 2000, five men beat Mark Hogancamp into a coma outside a bar. During his recovery he created the town of Marwencol in his backyard. Not only does the project help him recover his hand-eye coordination, but it also helps him process the psychic wounds from his attack. The characters of the dolls are based on friends and family, and his photographs follow the town's relationship dramas like movie storyboards. Hogancamp lives in two realities: one in which he can't remember 38 years of living, and another where he lives in a small Belgian town during the War. When a New York art gallery wants to show his work, the question becomes whether both realities can survive.

  • Director: Jeff Malmberg
  • Country: USA
  • Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 82 min.
  • Producer: Jeff Malmberg, Tom Putnam, Matt Radecki, Chris Shellen, Kevin Walsh
  • Cinematographers: Jeff Malmberg
  • Editors: Jeff Malmberg
  • Music: Ash Black Bufflo
  • Website: http://www.marwencol.com
  • Awards: SXSW 2010 (Grand Jury Prize) Film Independent’s Spirit Awards 2011 (TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD)
  • Filmography: Spettacolo (2017), The Saint of Second Chances (2023)
  • Language: English
  • US Distributor: Cinema Guild

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