My Kid Could Paint That

My Kid Could Paint That

DVD Rating: ****1/2

Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Read Anton Bitel's film review of My Kid Could Paint That

While Amir Bar-Lev raises many questions in My Kid Could Paint That about the reception of art in general and about his young subject in particular, he is even-handed (or personally undecided) enough not to spoon-feed us straightforward answers. This makes his film a refreshingly open-ended documentary, offering a thesis and antithesis, but leaving the synthesis to the individual viewer's discretion. The beauty of the extras on this DVD is that they broaden out the film's themes, adding ballast to every side of the argument, while continuing to withhold anything like an unequivocal 'solution' to the issues.

If you are convinced that Marla's paintings are an elaborate fraud cooked up by her dad Mark (and possibly his art dealer friend Anthony Brunelli too), then you will find plenty in Back To Binghamton to support your position – but conversely, it offers similar fuel for anyone who regards Marla as the real deal.

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This 35-minute featurette includes Bar-Lev describing the emotional toll that the documentary took on him, as well as follow-up interviews, a Q&A with Bar-Lev, Brunelli and Binghamton columnist Elizabeth Cohen at Sundance, another Q&A at Binghamton, and some very compelling deleted scenes. It is revealed that Marla's mother Laura was "heartbroken by some of the choices" taken by Bar-Lev, and that Marla herself (now seven) is confused but also flattered by the scepticism regarding her work. This is that rare thing in the world of DVDs, an extra that perfectly complements the main feature.

Some of the most memorable comments in My Kid Could Paint That come from the New York Times' chief art critic Michael Kimmelman, who calmly contextualises Marla's paintings within the history of modern art. The 12-minute featurette Michael Kimmelman On Art comprises the outtakes from those interviews: a highly articulate guided tour of the key concepts in 20th Century cultural reception. Fantastic!

The full audio commentary comes from Anthony Brunelli and editor John Walter, who turn out to be so engaging that you barely notice director Bar-Lev's absence. With his editor's eye for detail, Walter points out the subtle ways in which Mark directs his daughter through the painting process (without quite suggesting that Mark actually does the painting himself), while Brunelli (who comes across much better here than he does in the documentary itself) politely indicates the points where he he has been quoted out of context, and points out the irony that "Marla loves to paint, she's never forced to paint, the only time she was ever forced to paint was for 60 Minutes".

There are optional English subtitles for the documentary, the featurettes and the commentary, as well as optional Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian and Italian subtitles. The one oddity is the trailer reel, in which only children's films are showcased. My Kid Could Paint That may be about a young girl, but it is hardly likely to be attracting the same constituency as Daddy Day Camp or The Waterhorse: The Legend of the Deep...

Reviewed on: 19 May 2008
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My Kid Could Paint That packshot
Documentary about a four-year-old who has sold $300,000 of paintings - but is she a genius or an exploited child?
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Product Code: CDR48142

Region: 2

Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround

Extras: Audio commentary, Back To Binghamton featurette, Michael Kimmelman On Art interview, trailer reel

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