The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Young artist stirs controversy with abstract art abilities

Award winning film director Amir Bar-Lev has a new documentary set for limited release in Los Angeles and New York Oct 5.

“My Kid Could Paint That” is a documentary about the Olmstead family, and what makes the family noteworthy is their young daughter. Marla Olmstead looks like a normal and happy child when she paints on her canvas. The only real difference is that after she’s finished with her paintings her abstract pieces they sell for thousands of dollars.

Most of the documentary is filmed when Marla is just 4-years-old, but Marla’s first painting was sold when she was just 2-years-old. The documentary also circles around the family; both parents, Laura and Mark Olmstead, have to deal with their jobs, raising two children, dealing with the press, and helping channel Marla’s talent. That talent that has become extremely popular among abstract art collectors internationally. Many of her paintings have sold for more than $10,000.

However, one news story changed things for the Olmstead family. A piece on Marla done by “60 Minutes” raised questions about the skill that Marla possessed. The piece suggested that it might not have been the prodigal 4-year-old painting the abstract pieces.

With the release of that news story, the Olmstead family had a new problem to deal with. Not only did they have negative media attention instead of the usual praise, but they also had to prove that Marla’s talent wasn’t an elaborate hoax.

One of the most intriguing things about this film was its ability to bring viewers into the family, almost as if the audience had been filming the documentary themselves. Marla’s charisma was enough to draw in audiences regardless of the controversy surrounding the artwork.

The film evolves from a documentary about an exceptionally young internationally known painter, to the story of a family and their struggle, to society’s conflicting beliefs about the legitimacy of abstract paintings.

The film also couldn’t help but bring in Bar-Lev himself because of the time he had spent with the family and close relationship he had built with the Olmstead family.

The bond between the director and the Olmstead family is shown throughout the film. Not only because the family opened their doors and let the documentary be filmed, but in the comfort level the children acquire with Bar-Lev.

In one scene, Bar-Lev is asking Marla a line of questions about her paintings when the questions are interrupted by Marla asking him to help finish her puzzle.

Bar-Lev does an exceptional job of transferring his experience with the Olmstead family onto the screen. By the middle of the documentary the audience becomes familiar with the family and stops questioning whether or not Marla is actually an artist.

The “60 Minutes” story on the Olmstead family forced Bar-Lev to become apart of the story. After the news broke, the film became a search for the truth behind Marla’s paintings rather than a piece about a child painter.

As director of the film, Bar-Lev had no choice but to become more involved in the story in attempt to find the truth about Marla’s paintings. But Bar-Lev’s need for the truth could end up hurting the family that he has come to know personally.

The film itself becomes an enjoyable documentary that feels far more personal than most films. The result is an emotional story that leaves viewers wanting to believe multiple things at the same time.

“My Kid Could Paint That” is a documentary that brings a more personal feel then most films can offer. It’s an intriguing documentary worth seeing and offers a change of pace from explosions, super-heroes, and fart jokes.

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