There Are No Fakes
True North | Vancity Theatre Screening
Born in 1931, Norval Morrisseau was the first Indigenous Canadian artist to be taken seriously in the European art world. By the turn of the 21st Century his work commanded tens of thousands of dollars. So when Barenaked Ladies keyboardist and part-time art collector Kevin Hearn learned that his prized painting was probably a forgery, he decided to sue the gallery that sold it to him. But this was not an isolated incident. As Jamie Kastner’s jaw-dropping doc reveals, there was a cottage industry in fake Morrisseaus, an industry that flourished unchecked for years.
As the case comes to court Kastner gets shockingly forthright interviews from both Hearn’s witnesses (art experts and several people who knew Norval intimately) and the dealers who rubbish his claims. In the course of the film we learn a lot about Morrisseau’s art, but more about the power of money, exploitation, and racism, with the art market emerging as, at best, a fractionally more refined variation on the drug trade. Indeed, the longer the film goes on, the more sordid and sad are its revelations. Saddest of all, this feels like a quintessentially Canadian story, a sobering tale of greed, coercion, and contempt. "Money is like a stream flowing past your back door," someone remembers Norval saying. "You can help yourself to what you need. Until you get greedy, and then you drown in it…."
Saturday, June 15th, the screening will be followed by a panel discussion with: Dr. Richard Hill, Chair in Indigenous Studies, Emily Carr University; Bryant Ross, artist/friend; Michele Vadas, Norval Morrisseau's daughter-in-law; and filmmaker Jamie Katner (via Skype).
"Mesmerizing." Norman WIlner, Now magazine
"Almost Fargo-esque... including perhaps the most quintessentially Canadian documentary moments I can recall." Liam Lacey, POV magazine