FLIX: 'Finding Vivian Maier'

April 16, 2014 at 4:03 p.m.
Updated April 15, 2014 at 11:16 p.m.

Don't miss this wonderful film about American street photographer Vivian Maier, who until recently was mostly unknown. In 2007, John Maloof, a 26-year-old real estate agent and Chicago historian, was looking for photographs for a book he was working on and went to an auction house where he bid on and won boxes and boxes of negatives, undeveloped rolls of film, 8 mm movies and audiotapes that once belonged to Vivian Maier. Her belongings were auctioned off after she had stopped paying on her storage locker. Maloof was impressed by the photographs and posted a few on his website to see what kind of feedback he would get, and the comments section just blew up. He was unsuccessful at tracking down Maier - she died in 2009 - but his search and what he discovered is the basis of this documentary.

There are a lot of questions that remain unanswered, but Maloof along with Charlie Siskel do their best trying to find out all they can about Maier. She took more than 150,000 photos but never showed her work to anyone. Why? She was reclusive, eccentric and a nanny for most of her life to children in the Chicago area including former talk show host Phil Donahue. The movie features interviews with various adults who were once children that Maier looked after. All of them have vivid recollections of their former nanny, and they all recall her taking lots of photographs with her rolleiflex camera. Not all of the memories were happy ones, and that makes this story even more interesting.

Maier's work has been shown in galleries around the world, and a couple of books of her photographs have been published. Some people are criticizing Maloof for capitalizing on Maier's life, but the movie also includes a scene where he tried to get Museum of Modern Art in New York City interested in her work but was rejected by the museum. Anybody could have bought those boxes at auction, and in the hands of someone else, the world may never have been introduced to one of the greatest artistic finds of the 20th century.

RATING: 4 stars



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