Everyday Activist - Finding Vivian Maier (2013)

Posted on Friday, March 20, 2020 at 10:00 AM

Finding Vivian Maier (2013)

Movie Review by Everyday Activist X CalgaryMovies.com

I’ve been using up all my Kanopy movie credits from the Calgary Public Library. They have listed a whole bunch of credit free movies too, which provides more options than using my sister’s account as I burn through my ten. Since the Glenbow Museum and their exhibition Vivian Maier: In Her Own Hands is closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the documentary Finding Vivian Maier is the next best thing. Many of her photos and films displayed at the museum are also in the film and on the official Vivian Maier website.

Treasure hunter, John Maloof, discovered Vivian Maier’s work at an auction house in Chicago, after one of her storage lockers went delinquent on payment. While his initial mission of finding some architectural photos of Chicago was a bust, he found beautiful street photography in the negatives he ended up purchasing. Wanting to know more about the photographer, Maloof does his best detective work to learn as much as he can about the elusive Vivian Maier. The documentary follows her life as he unboxes it.

Going through the boxes, he notices bits of paper that contain phone numbers without the area code. Determined, he manages to find one of the families for whom Vivian was a nanny, which led to other families and storage units. She may have presented well as a caregiver, though in the later years some of the children now grown up confessed that she wasn’t always kind, noting a completely different experience from the previous families decades earlier. Fond memories she created with three boys in the 1950s, karmically came full circle as they were able to help her later on in life.

During this time, she traveled throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, South America, Carribean and into Canada. For such a strong, independent and talented woman to fall on hard times doesn’t make sense, unless one considers her lack of close relationships and her hoarding habits as clear signs of mental illness. Had she been able to think clearly or have some help to print and sell her work, she would have been financially secure. More important than money, through hard times she had the opportunity to discover those who loved her the most. Even the children she was mean to were inspired by her strength to be herself.

Aristotle’s quote of, “There is no great genius without a touch of madness” applies to Vivian Maier. Through her photos and videos, we experience life as she saw it. One of her videos at the Glenbow had children picking strawberries, so we know she included the children she cared for on her photoshoots. The later video of a child at a slaughterhouse was kind of strange, though watching the documentary, we see the positive impact those memories made. Hopefully, the Glenbow will open up before the exhibit is due to leave in May 2020. If not, stay in to watch the movie on Kanopy and peruse the photos on the Vivian Maier website.

Finding Vivian Maier has screenings in Calgary at the Glenbow Museum during the course of the exhibition, check here for Local Scene showtimes: Cinematic Sundays: Finding Vivian Maier (2013).

Calgary Showtimes: Finding Vivian Maier (2013) >


NOTE: The showtimes listed on CalgaryMovies.com come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to CalgaryMovies.com.