My Kid Could Paint That

An irresistible subject for a documentary: the charming celebrity of Marla Olmstead, an artist from upstate New York whose talent for impossibly confident abstractions triggered a media frenzy and five-figure price tags. Unveiled at a local coffee shop, Marla's middling AbEx doodles might not have inspired more than a glance were it not for the astonishing revelation that their maker was all of four years old. Supposedly. An unexpected development: growing suspicions that Mark Olmstead, Marla's father and an amateur painter himself, might have lent more than encouraging words to his daughter. Dazzled by the media attention (and, one presumes, the money), he was stumped by the inevitable backlash, unable to offer convincing proof of his daughter's sole authorship. What began as a human-interest story for filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev led down stranger paths than the Duchampian conundrums of modern art. The Olmsteads, desiring an ally to tell their side of the story, granted Bar-Lev intimate access to their household, and My Kid Could Paint That is foremost a study in an unsettling family dynamic. Are Mark and Laura lying? Evidence points to some level of assistance, but no conclusions are drawn. "Your documentary will be a lie," talking head and New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman says to the camera, speaking to larger questions of authenticity raised by Bar-Lev; "it's how you decided to tell a particular story."


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