Doc Blog

Painting a Family Portrait

The documentary My Kid Could Paint That just screened this afternoon at the Scotiabank theatre.  Director Amir Bar-Lev (pictured right) introduces us to Marla Olmstead; a four year old girl whose paintings cause a stir in the media. 

It started with a story written by a local journalist in the local newspaper.  Soon after, the New York Times gets a lead on this story and posts its own.  Almost overnight, Marla is sensationalized as a child prodigy by some, although her mother (Laura) dislikes the phrase child prodigy

Mark Olmstead (Marla's father) is thrilled by the media attention; as is, Gallery owner and artist, Anthony Brunelli, who basically represents Marla and aids in selling her art pieces.  As the film progresses, the story takes a turn.  The media frenzy seems to create more chaos in the life of this young family. The news program 60 Minutes airs a story that depicts Marla's works as not her own.  The show even suggests that maybe her father is the one who created the initial paintings.  Here is where the director comes to a difficult moment in the film, since he also becomes dubious of Marla's artistic ability.  Subsequently, this becomes a film about the family as a whole; including the parents' involvement in Marla's career as an artist.  Through the film, the director also tries to include their son Zane, who is also a very smart child and perhaps all too aware of the situation around him; even though he is only two years old at the time the film was made.

The film does not offer a straight answer.  I think the director wants the audience to make its own decision about the family and whether or not Marla's paintings are in fact the real deal.

During the Q&A session Amir Bar-Lev mentioned that at first, his intention for making this documentary was to "draw attention to the process of painting." He stated that Marla's parents have seen the end-product and are not so happy with the outcome. As Bar-Lev said, "we agree to disagree."  This documentary will be released on October 5th, 2007.

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