Marwencol

“I came flying over in my P40 Warhawk, on fire, and saw a flat field below and I crash landed in it. And when I walked into town, there was nobody there.” So begins Mark Hogancamp's story of Marwencol, the small-scale fictional Belgian town and oasis of peace in the midst of the Second World War that he built in his backyard. In April of 2000, Hogancamp was attacked outside a bar and beaten into a coma. When he awoke nine days later, he was brain damaged, unable to walk, speak, or clearly remember his life before the beating. As something to occupy his hands and head after the money for his state-supported physical therapy ran out, Hogancamp began constructing and populating Marwencol, taking pictures to record its turbulent history. The result is an astonishing collection of photographs sometimes reminiscent of the best World War II photojournalism. A photograph of a model jeep driven by dolls is framed so perfectly it looks as though it were captured in motion. A crowded bar named “Hogancamp's Ruined Stocking Catfight Club” looks at once seedy and inviting. Even pictures of the wartime dead are realistically gory. Jeff Malmberg's engrossing documentary examines Hogancamp's unique merging of art and therapy, including his fraught decision whether or not to travel to New York City, where an art gallery wants to display his work. Marwencol has always survived its encounters with the hated SS. Can it survive its discovery by the art world?

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