Monday, October 20, 2008
To This Blog's Documentary Filmmakers
by Jason Pyles
I have an unofficial recommendation for the documentary filmmakers that contribute to this blog: You should watch “My Kid Could Paint That” (2007), if you haven’t already seen it.
You’ve no doubt heard about it. “My Kid Could Paint That” is about a 4-year-old girl named Marla who begins to receive international recognition and acclaim in the art world for her contemporary, abstract oil paintings … but seeds of doubt are soon sewn as to the little artist’s authenticity and abilities.
I suggest checking out this movie because it qualifies as an unusual film in the documentary genre. Amir Bar-Lev, the filmmaker, shows up in the film a lot more than just as a “camera-placer.” He can be heard speaking to his subjects, speaking directly to us — giving his opinions. He can also be seen in the film, and consequently, he appears in the cast credits.
Perhaps that’s not too unusual, considering that documentaries have come to be defined with vast leeway, though there are many purists that would vehemently disagree.
But what makes this film interesting — especially to Andrew and Josh, the co-directors of the untitled CleanFlicks documentary — is how a “situation” luckily unfolds while the camera is running. Indeed, the best documentaries capture this kind of serendipity.
In “This Divided State” (2005), Steven Greenstreet told my Cinema Studies class that he decided to start filming Michael Moore’s visit to Utah Valley State College and a much bigger controversy erupted than he expected. Greenstreet said Kay Anderson made the film a real story. (I know some of you also worked on that film, part of this background is for those who haven’t heard about it.)
Then, with the CleanFlicks documentary, it appeared that the battle between Hollywood and CleanFlicks was the whole story, but ironically, when Daniel Thompson (a prominent champion of edited films) was said to be using his edited movies store, “Flix Club,” as a front for “a pornography studio” — and he and his business partner, Isaac Lifferth, were convicted this past summer (with varying sentences) of having sexual relations with two 14-year-old girls, well, another story burst open before the filmmakers’ cameras.
[Full Disclosure Note: Interestingly, for those who don’t know, I was the in-house movie critic for Flix Club, the very store, and I wrote movie reviews about the edited movies. ( Here is the address: http://www.flixclub.blogspot.com/. Oh, and the name of the last film I reviewed there is somewhat humorous.) I didn’t know about those other "dealings," bien sur, but I still — and always will — consider Daniel to be a friend of mine. Everybody makes mistakes; some are just worse than others.]
Anyway, much like Andrew and Josh, filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev grew to know and like the family that he had been shooting for so long, and when the controversy starts to unravel, he lets us know that he’s torn over it. So what is so noteworthy about “My Kid Could Paint That” is how the filmmaker must begrudgingly ride the train and let it take him where it’s going, even though he’s reluctant about what his camera will discover.
But also much like Andrew and Josh, Bar-Lev bravely proceeds forward, as a good documentarist should. Props to Andrew, Josh and Amir.