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Finding Vivian Maier

by Sydney Levine
April 2, 2014 12:00 PM
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Finding Vivian Maier
Finding Vivian Maier

A certain type of mystery, like finding a suitcase filled with treasures, is a certain lure to audiences. The Mexican Suitcase, by Tricia Ziff, was so disappointing in bringing all the suspense this story should have brought to the audience. The suitcase of 4,500 negatives of photographs shot during the Spanish Civil War by Robert Capo (23), David “Chim Seymour (28) Gerda Taro, Capo’s mostly unknown lover, an equally superb photographer who was killed in the war. The pictures shot by these three friends who met in Paris in 1936 was lost in the chaos of World Ward II for 60 years and only discovered in the affects of a Mexican diplomat after his death.

Vivian Maier Undeveloped Film
Vivian Maier Undeveloped Film

Equal in the potential for thrilling its audience by the discovery of suitcases full of undeveloped film, Finding Vivian Maier ( see its website here), fulfills the wish to be surprised by a treasure. And as compatible as the three friends were, so she was a solitary figure living a life entirely unsuspected by those she worked for as a nanny.

Vivian Maier was a mysterious nanny, who secretly took over 100,000 photographs that were hidden in storage lockers and discovered decades later by swap-meet-thrift-shop junkie John Maloof who directed this doc with Charlie Siskel. She is now among the 20th century’s greatest photographers. Her strange and riveting life and art are revealed through never before seen photographs, films, and interviews with dozens who thought they knew her.

It is now playing in theaters and everyone should see it. I saw it in Toronto and again in Berlin’s Panorama, and it still retains its place as one of my favorite all time films. Go here for a list of screenings and their locations.

Vivian Maier
Vivian Maier

As the mystery of this woman is uncovered, the audience is treated to her stunning work and the story of who she was. The reviews are great and I am happy to lend my own chorus of approval to them.

Currently, Vivian Maier’s body of work is being archived and cataloged for the enjoyment of others and for future generations. John Maloof is at the core of this project after reconstructing most of the archive, having been previously dispersed to the various buyers attending that auction where he bought the first suitcase. Now, with roughly 90% of her archive reconstructed, Vivian’s work is part of a renaissance in interest in the art of Street Photography. John Maloof’s obsession with Vivian Maier equals hers as a photographer.

To date, since opening March 28 in three theaters, the film, being released by Sundance Selects, has grossed $63,600.

Finding Vivian Maier

Its international sales agent, Hanway has sold it thus far to

Canada-Films We Like, Czech Republic-Aerofilms, France-Happiness Distribution, Italy-Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore, Japan-New Select Co. Ltd, New Zealand-Vendetta Films, United Kingdom- Soda Pictures.

For those among us who become as obsessed by the film as the filmmaker and the subject herself, you can see another doc on her through the BBC.See the trailer here. Indiewire’s CriticsWire’s eight critics graded this A-. Furthermore, Killer Films plans to develop 'Finding Vivian Maier' as a narrative feature .

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