A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
This film confirms that in the aftermath of even the most devastating and life-threatening event, an individual can reconstruct a fulfilling life.
Positive Role Models
Mark Hogencamp, the victim of a near-fatal attack, is the ultimate survivor. His innate artistic talent, a passionate sense of purpose, and his desire to not let the perpetrators win, combine to help him forge a fragile, if unconventional way of life, and begin to make a name for himself in the art world. The film also introduces many good-hearted, generous people who help him make his way.
Violence & Scariness
Many acts of violence are depicted by manipulating an array of dolls (Barbies and GI Joes). The dolls are bloodied, scarred, tortured, and bullet-ridden in numerous sequences as courageous doll-heroes (including the alter ego of the artist himself) engage the German SS (in doll-form) in the fictional town of Marwencol, Belgium during World War II. The film takes place after the brutal beating (with sexual implications) of the main subject. The beating is discussed, but not seen.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sexuality is restricted to the artist posing the Barbie and GI dolls in sexual positions and in various stages of undress. In dialogue, the artist talks about his own desires for love and intimacy and expresses those feelings using the dolls.
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Occasional coarse language, including: "pisses off," "asshole," "f--k," "s--t," and a reference to cross-dressing.
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Products & Purchases
Most of the characters in the film are created using Barbie and GI Joe dolls.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Honest discussions about Mark Hogencamp's previous severe alcoholism and his sobering up after the attack upon him. Mark smokes non-stop throughout the film.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this award-winning documentary takes a frank look at the badly-traumatized victim of a brutal beating and examines sensitive issues such as alcoholism, sexuality, revenge, and the fragility of the human brain. As a coping and healing strategy, the subject creates a miniature city with dolls to help him overcome the damage to his brain as well as the terrible fears that linger. The dolls, dressed, made up (often bloodied and scarred), and sometimes placed in provocative positions, engage in lovemaking, World War II battles, torture, and mayhem. There are numerous references to the subject's past alcoholic behavior; he smokes continuously. Some strong language is heard occasionally ("pissed off," "asshole," "f--k," "s--t"). To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Jeff Malmberg and his documentary team treat the subject of this inspirational, unique film with great respect and dignity. Everything about Mark Hogancamp is unorthodox and often unsettling; however, his passion for the miniature world he has created, along with his fragility and candid self-examination keep the audience rooting for him and his survival.
It's a spellbinding movie, never widely released, but the recipient of many international film festival awards. Because it deals with highly-charged issues: revenge, sexuality, mental disorders, it is recommended only for adults and mature teens.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.