RTR D: Amir Bar-Lev. USA. 82 min. Sep 8, 12:15 pm Scotiabank 2; Sep 10, 9:15 pm Cumberland 1. Rating: NNNNN
Carefully structured, honest and raw, this low-key doc is compelling from start to end.
When Bar-Lev becomes suspicious of his main subject, his sweet film turns murky. It's never clear if four-year-old Marla Olmstead's sophisticated abstract paintings are the work of a prodigy or a marketing hoax. Her father and a local gallery owner sell her paintings for incredible sums.
In one scene, Marla admits to her dad that her two-year-old brother, Zane, painted one canvas in her new gallery show. Dad ignores her. You'd think he'd want the public buying the right artist when paintings sell for $25,000.
But the question of whether Marla really painted her works is a small part of Bar-Lev's layered story. He includes a sharp exposé of the shaping of news reports, and his atypical relationship to his subjects is fascinating.