My Kid Could Paint That Reviews

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Super Reviewer
April 30, 2014
Amir Bar-Lev pilots a frank and bare bones documentary that lightly critiques society's willful or unintentional manipulation of gifted children, the ethics of art dealing and documentary journalism itself, and the snobbery and baldfaced groupthink of the art world.

Also of note is the credit given to the underrated skill and sensibility that goes into abstract art. Even people who don't "get" abstract art should still be able to discern cracks in the "Child Prodigy" authorship narrative with Bar-Lev's objective camera, especially in the side-by-side comparison views of Marla's off-screen and on-screen paintings.
Super Reviewer
August 16, 2012
A four-year-old shakes the art world with her abstract expressionist paintings, but questions surface about her authorship.
Before I saw this film, I only knew that it was about a four-year-old abstract expressionist. The film explored every question that occurred to me when I thought about the concept: does abstract art qualify as art, what are the effects of artistic fame on the child artist, who are the parents, and could this be a hoax. Within the first half hour, the film explores everything, which is a credit to director Amir Bar-Lev. The questions about Marla's authenticity take on a new prominence as the film continues and spark a self-reflective journey for the filmmaker. Is he violating a family's privacy by making the film? It's a question that Bar-Lev doesn't take lightly and rightly so. The film's one weakness is that we don't know enough about Bar-Lev before his experiences with the Olmsteads, so it's late in the film before we can attach ourselves to his journey. But all of these stories are compelling, and the comments about art by New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman are particularly insightful.
For my own part, I think "art" is a big enough word to encompass abstract expressionism and "splatter painting." While I don't find the work particularly compelling, I do find people who talk about the theory behind their work more interesting than the work itself. The same is true with modern art; I don't like looking at a Warhol, but I like listening to Warhol's apologia for his work. While Marla, the child artist, seems blissfully unaware of the firestorm surrounding her work, the parents work tirelessly to protect her name. I find Mark suspicious, and though I don't think Laura is in on the hoax, I think she suspects her husband. Yes, I think it's a hoax, but the film's strength is its ability to avoid making its own conclusions.
Overall, I think when I can start thinking about the film's issues rather than how the film is made, it says that the film is good enough to transcend the typical value judgments we employ when we watch films.
Super Reviewer
August 10, 2009
The parents tried to PROVE that they kid does its own drawnings...and even set up cameras, but you can see them showing her to paint here, paint there...I think this is a fraud. I also think abstract art is bs! Just watch and judge it yourself.
Super Reviewer
½ April 5, 2009
Really good. There is a shift half way though the movie as the scandal breaks and the film maker needs to shift focus to what might be going on underneath it all.
As I watch more and more docs I have noticed that there are not many that can tell the story objectively. This one is the same as the director puts his struggle to try and stay objective into the film. Does he continue with the original premise of documenting a child painter or does he follow the path before him that could taint the story as a ruse?
A well done film that lets you decide for yourself in the end with the facts laid out before you.
Super Reviewer
½ November 28, 2008
This is an interesting documentary which raises some larger issues about the art world (second doc in a row I've watched about "art world" following Who the $##% is Jackson Pollock?). The director can be accused of not being direct enough in his final confrontation of the parents.

I find an interesting conclusion made from this film: if a kid is having fun painting while interacting with a parent, what bearing does or should any input have that the parent may give the kid? If you suggest what the kid should do without taking the brush out of their hand, does that mean it's no longer the child's work? What about the adult artist who takes in criticism from other artists while still working on a piece? Are all these people also entitled to authorship or a signature? I just think this film does not make specific what PART of the parents and Marla'a behavior makes the art "not hers". I *think* it's the fact that the director suspects that the Dad Mark may do physical touch-ups to the paintings with his own brush after hsi daughter finishes, but this point isn't made clear.

This film also proves that art sales are all about marketing and media attention, especially for modern art, just as the gallery owner and seller for Marla's art will attest/protest.

This is a nice "debunking of the prodigy" film, and it works that angle on many levels, none of which I think the child herself will find to be insulting in future reflection.

Regardless of the movie's ambiguities, in five to ten years, any questions left in the air about Marla's talent will be solved by what she will do in her future art career.
Super Reviewer
August 1, 2008
Interesting topic, let down by an uneven documentary.
Super Reviewer
½ July 31, 2008
A very interesting film indeed. I particularly liked the discussion on the value of modern art etc. Some of the paintings were quite arresting no matter who painted them. My own opinion on the subject is that Marla is just a child who likes to paint in the usual child way, but was picked up by the art community - and her father and the first art gallery owner went along with that popularity to live out their own dreams of making it big in the art world, as pretty much anyone who had been denied that kind of success would have. The joy of the film is that it allows the viewer to make up their own mind, despite some of the filmmaker's leanings.
Super Reviewer
½ July 30, 2008
What could have been a mature and slightly satirical look into the world of modern art suddenly plunges into a deep dark mystery. The film casts so much doubt over who creates the paintings it seems obvious Marla did not do them herself. Even the families own evidence shows her creating a less affective piece. However there is a real family at the heart of this film, especially the mother who seems painfully honest. If it is lies then it is a shame for the young protagonist, who seems to just wanna have fun, even when showing up her father on screen. Amir Bar-Lev puts too much of himself into the film for a truly objective stance, however he is honest enough to admit he is emotionally invested in the film as well as keeping a line about how documentary film makers can create their own truth. Fascinating, bewildering and something that in ten years will hopefully have a follow-up.
Super Reviewer
August 13, 2007
I have never in my life seen a documentary as magnificent as this - engrossing all the way through, paced meticulously, beautiful camerawork, insightful interviews, adorable children, breathtaking artwork. Amir Bar-Lev manages to capture footage of Marla that makes her look almost idiotic that the audience is supposed to question her capability of doing this. Bar Lev mostly keeps his opinions out of his documentary (as contrasted to the omnipresent Michael Moore...blegh) but the few times he actually steps into the camera and speaks it's always carefully introspective and highly respectful. He has grown to care about these people, particularly the mother, and I can feel his pain resonating through the camera when he was forced to perform the "confrontation". I want to keep my opinions out of this review but it's obvious the father doctored them up, probably without the knowledge of the mother. The reporter was kind of a bitch in the way she said things but she was the one that brought up the best points. But seriously, why the heck should it matter so much? The paintings are beautiful no matter who painted them, and I seriously want to buy a couple hundred and put them up in my house because of the sheer freedom and rapture they evoke. This was originally just supposed to be a documentary about modern art but it escalated rapidly into much more than that. It makes the documentary much more evocative but the director's hesitations are palpable...I empathize entirely. The modern art elegy could have been just as beautiful because I am in LOVE with those paintings.
Super Reviewer
½ November 26, 2008
[font=Century Gothic]"My Kid Could Paint That" is an inadequate documentary about 4-year old Marla Olmstead of Binghamton, New York whose painting was displayed at a local bar which led to an article in a local newspaper which led to an article in the New York Times which led to many more paintings of hers being sold which should be a nice downpayment on any future psychiatric treatment. The fact that things got so far is mind-boggling, especially considering it is very hard to determine the effects of these events on Marla and her younger brother with the half-life of celebrity being impossible to calculate. Everbody might have been better off with this stopping with just the one painting and the parents having a good laugh. However, director Amir Bar-Lev is so coopted by his subjects that he does not ask the tough questions that he should be asking until it is much too late. The only people interviewed aside from the New York Times writer are people who have a vested interest in Marla's paintings. I was surprised that all of them were shocked by a "60 Minutes" expose that was very critical of the entire situation and brought up the question of whether Marla really did do all of the painting. It is irrelevant of course because a painting should be appreciated on its merits, no matter the age of the artist. As I have said before, an artist creates art for himself most of all and by creating abstract art is rebelling against realism.[/font]
Super Reviewer
October 28, 2007
An interesting tale of how people can be duped with a little encouragement. The same people who bought paintings allegedly painted by this little girl is also a season ticket holder for the Toronto FC.
Super Reviewer
October 12, 2007
Very intriguing rumination on one young artist and the art industry as a whole.
Super Reviewer
½ May 20, 2009
It's hard to doubt the veracity of these works when the mother seems so well-intentioned and genuine, but it's true that the one painting taped start-to-finish seems of a lesser quality than the others. The real point is, the filmmaker's original intention - questioning the authenticity of modern art as a whole - seemed more interesting than the finished film, but its not like he could have done much about it when this controversy arose either. Not that this film still doesn't expose modern art's illegitimacy to some extent. Interesting.
Super Reviewer
May 22, 2008
This movie is really about a documentary filmmaker that becomes so emotionally attached to his story that it impedes his ability to finish his objective. It's kind of interesting how the camera gets turned around on him, but at the same time, this compromises his work. Other interesting issues are addressed, like defining value of art, and whether its worth is intrinsic or extrinsic. But investigating the moral dilemma between encouraging a child versus exploiting his or her talents is the crux of the theme here. I would have liked to see the filmmaker be a bit more ambitious and pragmatic to find more of a definitive resolution to not only the true identity of the paintings, but to challenge the viewers to seek answers to this moral dilemma of encouragement versus exploitation.
Super Reviewer
½ April 10, 2008
An interesting film which really leaves you not knowing what to believe and also made me wonder how much of that money used to buy abstract paintings could be put to other uses...
Super Reviewer
March 14, 2008
I think it's pretty captivating. A fairly honest depiction of events that allow you to believe what you choose to.
Super Reviewer
March 2, 2008
A must see doc that will keep you thinking and guessing.
Super Reviewer
September 4, 2007
Whether or not Marla is, this movie is legit.
October 6, 2011
I really enjoyed this. An amazing story about a child prodigy painter, who is absolutely incredible. Does a good job of showing both the positive and negative slants to the issue, and does not really end up taking a side.

The documentary itself is well filmed and well composed, but the real reason I liked it so much was that I just wanted to keep looking at these paintings, because they are on par with some of the best abstract art I've seen.

As an artist, it both inspires me and makes me feel like a failure, because this 4 year old is a way better painter than I am.
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