My Kid Could Paint That

My_kid_could_paint_that Year: 2007

Director: Amir Bar-Lev

Budget: ?

Gross: $231 274

back in 2005 the art world was all a buzz over marla olmstead.  she was being compared to the likes of jackson pollock and her paintings were selling for about 10-30 thousand dollars.  what makes this such an incredible story, is that she was only 4 years old at the time... now do i have your attention?

My Kid Could Paint That is an interesting film on multiple levels.  first, there is the story itself: what began as a film about this painting protege turned into a look at a family in question after a 60 Minutes report that basically accuses the father of having a little something to do with the paintings. director amir bar-lev couldn't have known that the 60 Minute piece was going to happen, but when it did, the film he is making changes, as he starts to have little doubts about the veracity of the kids work (he went into the making of the movie never doubting that).

second, the film is about modern art and how it is looked at and perceived by critics and the public.  how can images of squares or paint thrown on a canvas, etc... be art?  is it art?  how can you tell good modern art from bad modern art?  the idea that a four year old could paint that has always been the cry of those that don't believe in the truth of modern art and now here we have a situation where it actually was a four year old that painted it.

then in the midst of this film about modern art the film itself takes on a modern/post-modern role as it begins to effect and react to the story it is documenting.  bar-lev talks to us directly at times and in some wonderful moments is questioned, by those he is interviewing, about what he is trying to do with the film and what his goals are. the family even talks to him about how they have allowed him to stay and continue his film because they trust him.  which as a film maker must be a hard thing when you see your film taking a path that might not be completely positive towards those that are giving you such openness and trust.

besides the family bar-lev interviews collectors of marla's work, the gallery owner that 'discovered' marla, the newspaper reporter that was the first to write about marla and documented the family over many months, even the chief art critic for the new york times...

bar-lev couldn't have seen where this story was going to go when he first started filming the family, but watching the entire arc of the film is completely interesting from both a story and film making viewpoint.

the only thing i will say i don't quite understand is why no one ever asked marla if her dad helped her with the paintings.  not in the 60 Minutes piece nor in any of the footage in the documentary.  you would think that would be an obvious question wouldn't you?

in the end i have to say that while i am leaning one way, i am not 100% convinced either way on the question of did marla paint those painting by herself or not. however, the great thing about My Kid Could Paint That is that the film brings up more questions then just that one, so see it for yourself and answer the ones you can and ask some new ones.