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Sam Cullman co-directed, shot and produced the Oscar-nominated documentary, If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (MFF 2011). More recently, Cullman was a producer and DP on the Sundance Grand Jury prize-winner, The House I Live In (2012).
When one thinks of an art forger, we might think of a nefarious greed-monger hell-bent on obtaining undeserved fortunes through the deception of the world’s art institutions. But what if said art forger made perfect copies of lesser-known works of master artists, and then gave them away for free to various museums, going undetected for decades? An act of egomania? Perhaps. A rascally prank? For certain. But is it a crime?
Art and Craft is not only a fascinating exploration of this very question, but an indelible portrait of two men obsessed. Using only the most rudimentary art supplies, diagnosed schizophrenic Mark Landis effortlessly reproduces his favorite paintings from masters like Matisse and Picasso, and then gives them away. He just so happens to have donated one of his dubious works to the institution at which the equally fanatical museum registrar Matthew Leininger worked. Leininger discovered the fake in his own collection circa 2008 and has since spent years in a game of cat-and-mouse with Landis, as he endeavors to expose Landis to the art world and make other institutions aware of potential fakes in their collections. The seemingly harmless rapscallion’s zen-like pursuit of his “hobby” is juxtaposed with the slightly over-the-top preoccupation of his pursuer, who seems to have taken Landis’ hoodwinking as a very personal affront. This humorless view of Landis’ “gifts” is one shared by many of the institutions that have been his “beneficiaries.”
Wonderfully entertaining and endlessly fascinating, Art and Craft is a must-see, and Mark Landis is undoubtedly one of the most memorable characters you will ever watch on the big screen. Art lovers, armchair psychologists, pranksters, amateur sleuths and frankly everyone else will find something to love about this fantastic film. (J. Scott Braid)