out of Five
Running time: 84
Hugely entertaining documentary that raises interesting questions about media exploitation, the value of art and even the subjective nature of truth within the documentary format.
What's it all about?
Directed by Amir Bar-Lev, My Kid Could Paint That tells the story of 4-year-old Marla Olmstead, who sold more than $300,000 worth of paintings in 2004, stunning the art world and drawing comparisons with Kandinsky and Pollock. Her parents, Mark and Laura, are surprised and taken aback by her success, as is gallery owner Anthony Brunelli, who proclaims her a modern art prodigy.
However, during the height of the ensuing media explosion, US TV show 60 Minutes did a feature on Marla and raised doubts about the authenticity of her paintings, suggesting that her father (himself an amateur artist) had at the very least given her direction. Fortunately, director Amir Bar-Lev had already begun work on his film when the controversy erupted, so the parents turn to him in the hopes that the film will exonerate them.
Aside from being granted extraordinary access to the family, Bar-Lev has also assembled an impressive array of talking heads, including the local journalist who first broke the story. She also makes the point that the film is also about media exploitation and that the 60 Minutes programme arose because a story has to evolve or die.
Though the film starts out as a straightforward telling of the story, Bar-Lev's own doubts soon form part of the narrative, as he realises that he desperately needs footage of Marla creating a masterpiece for his film. However, the two paintings Marla creates on camera are nowhere near as good as her so-called masterpieces and Mark's claims that Marla can't concentrate when she knows she's being filmed seem very suspect.
Bar-Lev directs with a certain sense of humour and also, crucially, allows us to make up our own minds, placing the different paintings side by side without offering judgment.
My Kid Could Paint That is an extremely entertaining documentary that tells a fascinating story and leaves you with a lot to think about. Highly recommended.
My Kid Could Paint That (PG)