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Finding Vivian Maier

Nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 87th Annual Academy Awards

It’s a riveting documentary, about a real life artist, who failed to gain significant recognition until years past the creation of her best work. It reminds immediately of “Searching for Sugar Man”, the 2012 documentary feature triumph, that went on to grab the Academy Award that year in its category. “Finding Vivian Maier” may be unable to top this year’s tough competition, but I’ll never forget it. Outside of getting a wee bit sentimental towards the finale, this mystery of an enigmatic photographer is consistently impressive in its storytelling. Vivian takes gallery quality shots of people and places and things for decades, but remains virtually undiscovered throughout her lifetime, instead making ends meet, by working for a variety of families as a nanny–mostly in the Chicago area. One of her employers interviewed, is none other than former talk host Phil Donahue! We receive scattered tidbits of information, about her guarded life story, and the risks she took by traveling to dangerous city locations to garner the best shots–often with her clients’ children in tow. Many of those interviewed, are the now grown kids that she sat for, and they recollect a complex, secretive woman–who was always with camera in hand. The writer/director team of John Maloof and Charlie Siskel are rousingly successful in uncovering the clues that lead to a sensational portrait of Ms. Maier. They can’t provide all the answers, but what they manage to find is endlessly fascinating, along with the reams of photographic evidence to enhance the tale being told. This documentary feature is a can’t miss experience.

Grade:  A-

next review up:  “Ida”

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