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My Kid Could Paint That

4.4 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Product Description

An Official Selection of both the 2007 Toronto Film Festival and the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, My Kid Could Paint That arrives on DVD March 4, 2008. Documenting the rise and fall of four-year old artist Marla Olmstead, Amir Bar-Lev' as well as an audio commentary track.


Suitable for framing, Amir Bar-Lev's "family human interest story" indelibly captures the media maelstrom that engulfed the Olmsteads of Binghamton, N.Y. when their daughter, Marla, age 4, became the darling of the art world with her abstract paintings. As a gallery owner tells Bar-Lev, the situation is "perfect": The family is charismatic, and Marla is, indeed, "a doll" and her paintings, "unbelievable." More on that later. Bar-Lev chronicles how a community newspaper article about Marla was picked up by the New York Times, leading to more newspaper articles, sold out gallery showings, and media throngs. Marla's paintings sold upward of $25,000 (the owner of the Houston Rockets bought one), and talk-show hosts (Conan, Dave, Oprah) wanted Marla on their shows. "You're in for a wild ride, I hope you're prepared for this," the gallery owner says he told Mark Olmstead, Marla's father, a Frito Lay factory worker who also dabbles as an artist. But no one is prepared when Charlie Rose, during a 60 Minutes Wednesday broadcast, raises questions on whether Marla is the sole artist. Was she coached? Were the paintings doctored, or even painted by someone else? Could she even be called a prodigy? Bar-Lev's canvas expands to consider the nature of art and media culture. It also becomes something of a self-portrait as he struggles with his own growing suspicions about Marla's paintings after he has befriended the family and earned their trust. My Kid Could Paint That is not a masterpiece, but it will resonate especially for everyone who says they don't know art, but they know what they like. It would be an excellent companion to Who the #%&% is Jackson Pollock? --Donald Liebenson

Stills from My Kid Could Paint That (click for larger image)

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Special Features

  • Back to Binghamton– a mini-doc with Director Amir Bar-Lev that includes follow-up interviews, Sundance Q & A, Binghamton Q & A, deleted scenes, etc.
  • Kimmelman on Art – a mini-doc with the New York Times art critic
  • Audio Commentary

Product Details

  • Actors: Anthony Brunelli, Elizabeth Cohen, Amir Bar-Lev
  • Directors: Amir Bar-Lev
  • Writers: No Writer Credited
  • Producers: Amir Bar-Lev
  • Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, Thai
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: March 4, 2008
  • Run Time: 83 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0011IR2R4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,690 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "My Kid Could Paint That" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
This is an excellent movie that is made even better if you figure out what is actually going on here. For while the film begins as a celebration of this girl's amazing talents, it quickly becomes an involving detective story much like Capturing the Friedmans - though one that ultimately inverts the trajectory of that film. Among many ironies and paradoxes in the film's treatment of modern art, the ultimate one may be that if you don't think through the evidence clearly the film itself becomes a similar kind of Rorschach test, eliciting dramatically opposed views of the film and especially the filmmaker. But make no mistake: the ambiguity is superficial. Especially with the fantastic bonus materials on the DVD, there is enough evidence to figure out what is really going on. The filmmaker is clearly torn between the academic film theories he embraces and foregrounding his own views. I have no such qualms about explicitly connecting the dots.

I presume familiarity with the movie. The central question is as follows: Did the father do these paintings, or the daughter, or some combination? The possible answers vary depending on which paintings one is talking about. For the paintings that initially made her famous, it is stated unequivocally by several people in the film that no one outside the family ever saw the girl painting. Thus, these paintings could have been done entirely by the daughter, entirely by the father (who is a painter), or some combination. After CBS' 60 Minutes II places a hidden camera (which the couple took two months to agree to), we see the first example of a painting definitely painted by the daughter - at least physically painted by her, a point to which I will return.
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Format: DVD
This documentary exposes, in a very objective manner, the manipulations of the "art world," the media and a very young child by parents.

Parents are ultimately charged with assuring the well-being of their offspring. This is a not-for-profit endeavor. I was as disturbed by the actions of these parents as I am by the pushy stage mothers who dress their daughters up as mini-adults and parade them on stage to win pageants. I perceive that the father in this story would be just as easily at home on a Little League field bullying an umpire as well as engineering this greed and publicity driven scheme.

My heart was also aching for the little brother. The scene depicting him pulling on his father's chair, seeming to beg for attention by announcing that he also painted while "in his mother's belly" spoke volumes.

I viewed the father as a strutting peacock who glories in the exploitation of this situation, and squirmed with discomfort as I watched the mother seem to gain sudden "awareness" while watching the televised expose. When that dawn came, it did nothing to bring the exploitation to an end. The documentary later shows her tearfully regretting what has transpired, but this masterpiece of manipulation and exploitation continues. Therefore, I hold her just as culpable as the father, who is the ring-master of this sad circus.

What is tremendously clear in this documentary is that this situation had become quite disturbing, that this negativity was abundantly clear to the parents, and that they fostered the continuation of the exploitation.

This is a brilliant and objective but very disturbing film.
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Format: DVD
Really liked the movie. In it, the art critic and (I think) the filmmaker said that all art is a lie. Well, I disagree with that - good art is a window to the truth. A good film will be able to penetrate behind the layers of deception. This one did.

Just before the part where the parents were watching the 60 Minutes report on Marla, the first time doubts about her ability were brought up, I said to myself that I had not seen anything that the child did showed me that she could do those paintings. When showing her painting, her level of concentration was extraordinarily short (though typical of a 4 year old,) she stabbed and poked at the canvas. She wanted to play.

So the Olmsteads ended up doing their own video of her doing a painting called Ocean because she would never paint with the mastery of the high priced paintings whenever an outsider was filming. (That happened five times.) In the special features follow-up, one guy said Ocean didn't look like the others. Being into art, that was an understatement. She ends up painting in Ocean what looks like a Mickey Mouse representation. Look at the circle representing "Mickey's" head. Then look at all the other almost perfect circles that fill up some of her other earlier paintings. Look at all the solid, steady wide brushstrokes that encompass the other very large paintings like Triptych. Look at the long, steady drips on the paintings (one painting, on the follow-up feature has a "V" where each arm is three feet long) compared with the jagged ones on Ocean.

There's another painting where a collector says that one part of it looks like a pathway to a door. Look at how smooth, steady and solid the wide brushstrokes are that are completely absent in Ocean or in any video of her painting.
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