My Kid Could Paint That Amir Bar-Lev

My Kid Could Paint That Amir Bar-Lev
Can a four-year-old be an art prodigy? And when her choice of work falls into the abstract realm, who’s qualified to validate her art? Does it even matter? These are the questions raised by Amir Bar-Lev’s documentary, which concerns Marla, who through the attention of a local gallery owner, and then The New York Times, enjoyed a rapid rise to fame in the art world. But when a 60 Minutes report calls into question the validity — and source — of Marla’s work, deeper questions about art, intentionality and authorship emerge. To his credit, Bar-Lev embraces all these challenges, which turn his documentary about the nature of modern art into a meta one about the nature of storytelling, as the story of Marla herself becomes the story of her work. The DVD furthers those stories and reveals some of the scepticism (on the part, in particular, of Marla’s mother) that remains even after the fact; it also addresses the peculiar relationship that many participants have, in terms of their own interests, in the Marla "cause.” Unusually, Bar-Lev doesn’t sit down for a film commentary — that track is instead by film editor John Walter and the gallery owner who gave Marla her first show. It puts the commentary at a slight remove but also inadvertently demonstrates the ways in which young Marla quickly became her own cottage industry. Fans of art, documentary and journalism will all be drawn into My Kid Could Paint That and come away with questions of their own. It’s a fascinating piece of work. Plus: art appreciation, more. (Mongrel Media)