How We Run Our Art Documentary Group and What We Watch

How We Run Our Art Documentary Group and What We Watch

After watching so many art documentaries, it’s clear that some are better than others. They are produced better, scripted better, and filmed better, making them easier to watch. Sometimes, even the background music can detract from the film’s message.

Still, even in so-called bad documentaries, there is something to be learned.

The fourth film we watched is called In the Realms of the Unreal: The Mystery of Henry Darger. This was just too weird to watch. The animation was excellent, but neither my husband nor I could feign any interest in it. I think Janice and Lisa deserve gold stars because they stuck with it to the end. ( I won’t point fingers at who selected this one, Lisa.)

Even though I didn’t like the film, I’m fascinated by the story of Henry Darger, a janitor and secret artist unknown in his lifetime. His work, including 15,000 pages of a novel, was discovered by his landlords, who saved the work from being tossed in the garbage and brought it to public attention. His estate is now being litigated—50 years after his death. I wasn’t interested in that particular documentary, but it led me to surrounding topics, like art litigation, which I find endlessly fascinating.

Curiously, a number of the documentaries we have watched have been written and produced by family members. Daughters, in particular, seem to want to tell the stories of their artist-fathers. Of course, you have to take that into account.

The documentary Botero about the famed Colombian artist Fernando Botero is beautifully done. Truly a stunning film. It’s also directed by a longtime family friend and produced by his daughter. It’s blatantly biased—trying to convince me of Botero’s genius, which I found hard to stomach.