“My Kid Could Paint That” is among those most revelatory of documentaries: one that manages to tell a single story that, in turn, involves a myriad of other issues.
Documentarian Amir Bar-Lev set out to make a film about Marla Olmstead, a cute-as-a-button 4-year-old whose Jackson Pollock-styled paintings had set the art world aflutter. With the girl’s works fetching $20,000 and higher, the Marla phenomenon either revealed a child prodigy or the utter absurdity of modern art.
But then a not-so-funny thing happened: While Bar-Lev was chronicling the heady adventures of Marla and her proud parents, a “60 Minutes” segment all but accused the girl’s father of doctoring her paintings. Suddenly, the subject matter had darker connotations about possible fraud and exploitation “ to say nothing of a callous media machine that thinks nothing of eviscerating lives and reputations.
Fascinating and unsettling, “My Kid Could Paint That” ultimately presents a sad saga in which there are only victims. In perhaps a final irony, the documentary itself arguably piles on the indignities suffered by the Olmstead family.
The DVD includes an epilogue featurette and a commentary with the art gallery owner who was instrumental in marketing Marla’s paintings.