MY KID COULD PAINT THAT
In a span of only a few months, 4 year- old suburban New Yorker Marla Olmstead rocketed from total obscurity into international renown - and sold over $300, 000 dollars worth of paintings as "a budding Picasso." But many criticised her parents for exposing Marla to the glare of the media and of exploiting their daughter for financial gain. Five months into Marla's new life as a celebrity and just short of her fifth birthday, a story on CBS' 60 Minutes implied that the paintings were by her father. Embattled, the Olmsteads turned to filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev to clear their name. Torn between his own responsibility as a journalist and the family's desire to see their integrity restored, the director is drawn deeper and deeper into a situation that can't possibly end well for him or them.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Even as Australian filmmaker Anna Broinowski's tale of literary fraud, Forbidden Lie$ is enjoying box office success around the country, Amir Bar-Lev's art fraud doco hits our screens. This time, though, we are in the world of abstract art, and the film's title reflects how many people react to abstract art at the best of times. In this case 4 year old Marla is the artist, hailed by the New York art world as a genius. This is why the film is so compelling - and so frustrating. Like Forbidden Lie$, the subject (in this case Marla's parents) manage to make the truth so elastic that it is unreliable.
The whole question of the film is did Marla paint the splashes or was it her father. Despite attempts to film the little girl at work, the question is never satisfactorily answered - which tends to indict the family, much to their chagrin. But the storytelling is a little crude, the filming equally so, and in the end, audiences may feel that those who were prepared to pay thousands of dollars for one of Marla's paintings must be philosophical: if they love the work, the money is justified. If they only bought it because she was considered a child prodigy and her work a good investment - well, tough luck.
The parents, a middle class couple who seem confused about what they want or expect from the world, the media and their own child, do not come off too well. Marla on the other hand seems like a normal 4 year old girl, whose doodles look pretty average.
The final conclusion about Marla's art must be that she seems quite disconnected to her painting, and her paintings seem to be disconnected to what we see her do. But frankly my dear ...
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MY KID COULD PAINT THAT (M)
CAST: Documentary featuring the Olmstead family - Marla, Mark, Laura and Amir Bar-Lev
PRODUCER: Amir Bar-Lev
DIRECTOR: Amir Bar-Lev
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Matt Boyd, Nelson Hume
EDITOR: Michael Levine, John W. Walter
MUSIC: Not credited
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Not credited
RUNNING TIME: 83 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 18, 2007