Outside a small bar in Kingston, NY, Mark Hogancamp was beaten nearly to death, his memories wiped away. Seeking recovery, he builds Marwencol, a miniature World War II-era town filled with doll versions of his friends, fantasies, and even his attackers. As he documents the town’s dramas with his camera, the dolls become living characters in an epic tale of love, adventure, resurrection and revenge. When his photos are discovered by the art world, Mark is suddenly forced to choose between the safety of his imaginary world and the real world he’s avoided since the attack.
Mark populates the town he dubs “Marwencol” with dolls representing his friends and family and creates life-like photographs detailing the town’s many relationships and dramas. Playing in the town and photographing the action helps Mark to recover his hand-eye coordination and deal with the psychic wounds of the attack. When Mark and his photographs are discovered, a prestigious New York gallery sets up an art show. Suddenly Mark’s homemade therapy is deemed “art”, forcing him to choose between the safety of his fantasy life in Marwencol and the real world that he’s avoided since the attack.
“Marwencol” was released theatrically by the Cinema Guild and aired on PBS. It has won over 25 awards, including two Independent Spirit Awards, Best Documentary of the Year from the Boston Society of Film Critics and Rotten Tomatoes, and the Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary at the South by Southwest Film Festival. The Los Angeles Times calls the film “an exhilarating, utterly unique experience” while the Village Voice says that it’s “exactly the sort of mysterious and almost holy experience you hope to get from documentaries and rarely do.”
Update: Film not available online anymore, now on DVD