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 (After an impressive festival run, Willem Baptist’s Instant Dreams opens in New York today before moving in to theaters nationwide. Like what you see here on Hammer to Nail? Why not pay just $1.00 per month via Patreon to help keep us going?)

With the Polaroid camera in the zeitgeist once again, Netherland documentarian Willem Baptist’s Instant Dreams has finally crossed the Atlantic Ocean and into American cinemas to show us the incredible allure of a Polaroid picture.

A German artist. A New York magazine editor. A Japanese woman. And a retired scientist. Baptist follows these quirky but passionate fanatics and reveals to us how they still stay loyal to the old Polaroid ways.

I feel ashamed for underestimating the stimulating potential of one of the most prolific worldwide sensations. Baptist pulls out the seemingly indescribable feelings his subjects have for the camera and interprets them on the screen as one part cosmic and another part autobiographical. These subjects rarely hide the complex emotions that emit from their souls when they took an instant snapshot of moments in their lives.

These confessions are bizarrely more hypnotic than they should be — anyone’s reactions to a photograph of their past are a dime a dozen—but Baptist knows how and when to suck you into these stories and when to let you, the viewer, reflect on times when a camera was your most excellent tool in preserving your life forever.

At first glance, Instant Dreams appears to be another pretentious art piece with no clear point to it. Often scenes play as though Baptist is begging to direct the next big commercial for Polaroid. I suggest that the skeptics of this film view its collection of self-portraits within the same space instead of on the other side of a five-inch two-way mirror. Open up and see if Willem Baptist visualized a similar feeling or a visceral gut reaction to a Polaroid moment of your life that you were unable to see until now.

– Patrick Howard (@PatHoward1972)

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