What begins as a charming celebration of childhood creativity takes a dark turn in My Kid Could Paint That, a compelling documentary that leaves you wondering if there is nothing sacred in this stinking world. Is four-year-old Marla Olmstead a Picasso in the making, or did father Mark have a hand in the remarkable abstract paintings that made her a global sensation? Director Amir Bar-Lev isn't sure, and neither are we at the end of this unsettling real-life portrait.
Perky and precocious, it's not surprising this baby Jackson Pollock from Binghamton, New York became a tabloid darling whose colourful canvases changed hands for tens of thousands of dollars. Once the whiff of scandal got attached to her story, however, Marla became the centre of a media witchhunt. Invited by the Olmsteads to film their daughter at play in order to refute allegations her creations were phoney, the director found to his dismay his footage only strengthened the evidence against her. The piece thus becomes as much about Bar-Lev himself as he struggles to reconcile his affection for the family and the trust they have placed in him with his determination to uncover a potentially unpalatable truth.
As its title suggests, Bar-Lev's documentary has some choice observations to make on modern art, the critics who write about it and the gullible patrons who pay millions for works they can scarcely understand. Essentially, however, this is a cautionary tale that suggests even innocence can be bought and sold, provided the price is right.
My Kid Could Paint That is out in the UK on 14th December 2007.