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Four year old Marla Olmstead from Binghamton, New York became the sensation of the art world for her abstract artwork, which have sold for thousands of dollars per piece. The showing of her work started off as a lark, but when the paintings sold without the buyers knowing who the artist was, the media began to run with the story. Through it all, Marla's parents, Mark Olmstead and Laura Olmstead, want to be grounded in what is best for their daughter while exposing her to whatever positive may come from the experience. But some negative and big name media also surfaces, some questioning whether Marla is the real artist behind the work, and some questioning exposing a four year old to such infamy. Regardless, the fact of this art selling brings up the legitimacy of abstract art being quantified as "quality", especially if a four year old can produce it but can't express the emotions or rationale behind its creation. Or is art truly in the eyes of the beholder? Regardless, money, in the ... Written by
All writers, all storytellers, are imposing their own narrative on something. I mean, all art in some ways is a lie. It looks like a picture of something, but it isn't that thing, it's a representation of that thing... Your documentary is itself going to be a lie. It's a construction of things, it's how you wish to represent the truth and how you've decided to tell a particular story. By that I don't mean that certain things don't happen. Of course they do. It's not that there is no such thing ...
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An interesting film but loses focus in the second half
A new sensation has arrived in the modern art world what started out as paintings sold for a few hundred dollars in a local restaurant has seen the artist garner national and international press coverage, well-selling shows in New York and comparisons to the world of classics. Thing is, the artist is a four year old girl called Marla, who apparently is painting these oils without help from either parent who are both quite taken aback by the interest and profitability of their daughter. Filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev spends hundreds of hours with the family, from the rise to fame into the period where Marla's work comes under question.
It was a fellow reviewer that mentioned this documentary to me a while back and when I saw it on television recently I decided to check it out. For the first half of the film I was catching up with the story as I had never seen or heard anything about this little girl before. To those already familiar with her then I suspect the first half of the film will not that that engaging but for me I found it interesting. Via the media coverage Bar-Lev is able to put questions like "what is art?" on the table even if he personally doesn't do much with them. The problem comes in the second part of the film because it is here where an interesting "last segment on the news" story gets more complex. Questions are asked and the answers are unconvincing with limited evidence to silence the doubts. Nothing is ever conclusive and Bar-Lev cannot do a "Theroux" and coax anything out of the parents of value. I still found it interesting because the paintings are hard to believe and I was starting to wonder myself particularly when you see Marla actually painting herself and they do look more like kid's stuff than the impressive creations on sale. But Bar-Lev doesn't seem sure what to do with this and as a result the film stutters to an unsteady conclusion where really it needed to be conclusive even if that conclusion is inconclusive (if you see what I mean).
As it is though, this documentary is interesting and it is only a shame that someone more able could have had the access Bar-Lev did, just to see how it could have turned out rather than how it did.
3 of 6 people found this review helpful.
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