Finding Vivian Maier

Finding Vivian Maier is a fascinating new documentary. It all started in 2007 when John Maloof, real-estate agent, art collector and co-director of Finding Vivian Maier bought 100,000 of her negatives at an auction. Being impressed by what he saw, he tried to find out about her. There was no trace of Maier as a photographer. After she died in 2009 at 83, he found an obituary in the Chicago tribune. Then from an auction of an unpaid storage, Maloof found more photos and hundreds of rolls of film, home movies, audio tape interviews, cameras and other items. Who was Vivian Maier? She was a nanny for most of her life. During the 70s one of her clients was talk show host Phil Donahue. John Maloof and his co-director Charlie Siskel pieced together a portrait of Maier from the items found in the storage and from the interviews they conduct with the people who knew her. Friends and employers remember an excentric but friendly woman. The children under her care liked her, although some recall painful memories of physical abuse. It is often with those children that she walked the streets of Chicago with her Rolleiflex camera strapped around her neck. Maier was what we call a street photographer. She would snap pictures of well-to-do Chicagoans shoppers, bums and drunks, urban black youths of the 1950s and 60s and lots of kids. She did that without their knowledge or without their consent. Most are in black-and-white. Among them there are a lot of self-portraits that she snapped in mirrors or store windows, her head often popping out from her Rolleiflex or some furniture with a look of serious defiance or surprise at being caught by her own camera. We know Maier tried to have some of the negatives developed, but the mystery remains. Why did she do it? Why such a compulsion to take so many photos (150,000, Maloof says, is just the tip of the iceberg ) if nobody would see it. And what a treasure John Maloof found. Vivian Maier was simply brilliant. And now thanks to Maloof she is known around the world. As she should be.

And the Oscar went to… The nomination of Finding Vivian Maier for Documentary feature could not make me happier. But CitizenFour, about Edward Snowden and the NSA leaks, won the Oscar. 

Rémi-Serge Gratton


 Finding Vivian Maier


Directed by: 
John Maloof
Charlie Siskel
84 min.
Rated Parental Guidance

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