Movie News - Award Winning Doco Marwencol local Release

Marwencol, what the hell is Marwencol. Well in all honesty, I had no idea until I received an email in my inbox explaining what it is all about. In short, it is all about an American man who rebuilds his life after a horrific, life-changing incident.

This story is all to familiar to me. One of my good friends had his life changed through a motorcycle accident which left him in a coma and subsequent brain damage. He too has rebuilt his life through unconventional means. Though personal experience may be somewhat of an influence, the premise itself has me incredibly intrigued. 

The multiple award winning Marwencol is due to be released locally by Bonsai Films through iTunes, Bigpond Movies, Google Play and Foxtel On Demand on September 15th.

Check out the full synopsis after the jump!


On April 8, 2000, Mark Hogancamp was attacked outside of a bar in Kingston, NY, by five men who beat him literally to death. Revived by paramedics, Mark had suffered brain damage and physical injuries so severe even his own mother didn’t recognize him. After nine days in a coma and 40 days in the hospital, Mark was discharged with little memory of his previous life.

Unable to afford therapy, Mark decided to create his own. In his backyard, he built Marwencol, a 1/6th scale World War II‐era town that he populated with dolls representing his friends, family and even his attackers. He used the small dolls and props to redevelop his hand‐eye coordination, while he dealt with the psychic wounds from his attack through the town’s many battles and dramas.

After a few years, Mark started documenting his miniature dramas with his camera. Through Mark’s lens, these were no longer dolls – they were living, breathing characters in an epic WWII story full of violence, jealousy, longing and revenge. And he (or rather his alter ego, Captain Hogancamp) was the hero.

When Mark’s stunningly realistic photos are discovered and published in an art magazine, his homemade therapy suddenly becomes “art,” forcing Mark to make a choice between the safety of his fictional town and the real world he’s avoided since his attack.

Shot over the course of four years, Jeff Malmberg’s documentary intertwines the dual realities of Mark Hogancamp to tell the whole story of Marwencol – a surprising tale of love, secrets, pain, and adventure.


When I first read about Marwencol in Esopus Magazine, I originally thought it would make a great short film. There was something really interesting going on in the photos that made me want to learn more. So I got in touch with Tod Lippy (editor of Esopus). He was incredibly protective of Mark, but he eventually put us in touch and I flew out to meet Mark.

At first glance, Mark could easily be judged as hermetic and creepy ‐ he’s a grown man who spends his days playing with dolls. I realized pretty quickly that although this could make a compelling short (as “This American Life” later proved), it would miss something important.

That was four years ago.

Since then, I’ve realized that my goal with the film is to turn that immediate snap judgment about Mark on its ear. I want to blur that clear line of rational thought and judgment within the audience (“he’s creepy,” “he’s bizarre”) by making the audience an active participant in Mark’s recovery and journey. Who’s to say that Mark’s constructed reality is any less valid than most people’s “real world?” In Marwencol, they may find more love, pain, morality and feeling than in their actual lives.

Mark is a living lesson in not judging people so quickly, and his story touches on issues that a lot of people deal with today in silence… alternative lifestyles, healthcare problems, post‐traumatic stress.

With respect to his photographs, I tried to touch on the nature of art, and how some of the best art comes from conflict. It has an honesty that art from pure cleverness just doesn’t. And that makes it beautiful, but at the same time, it makes it very private. A very private experience that all of us want to share in.

And finally, I wanted to get people thinking about the subjective nature of reality. Mark has two realities – Marwencol and the real world. Most of us would like him to live and succeed in the real world. I’m occasionally still guilty of hoping that Mark will “wake up” and realize what a huge opportunity his artwork is. But Mark loves his life in Marwencol and doesn’t want to be an “artist.” Some of us might see that as tragic, but is it? I think that central question will define whether a viewer sees the film as the tragic tale of a broken man or the uplifting resurrection of a gifted artist.


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