Review: ‘The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins’

Craig Kornblau

If Madonna and Angelina Jolie can do it, why can't performance artist Vanessa Beecroft adopt an exotic Third World baby?

If Madonna and Angelina Jolie can do it, why can’t performance artist Vanessa Beecroft adopt an exotic Third World baby, asks “The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins.” Director Pietra Brettkelly’s enigmatic rendering of the situation echoes incendiary questions raised in Beecroft’s art and defies the commercial demands of documentary cinema, making it best suited as cultural programming for arts-friendly overseas broadcasters or, in expurgated form, even PBS. Provocative result is not a straightforward artist’s profile, political commentary or domestic drama, but a poetic fusion of the three.

Brettkelly offers an unvarnished picture of her subject, peeling away Beecroft’s delusions about her seemingly noble adoption quest. For starters, the twins aren’t actually orphans, and even if they were, Sudanese tradition demands extended family raise them. Beecroft is deep into the application process before the pic reveals she’s failed to inform her rational husband (or their two kids) of her scheme. Her artistic mind clearly functions on a different plane, fixating on the infants she used as models and incorporating the experience into later projects. Brettkelly lays the situation bare, but leaves judgments to us.

The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins

New Zealand

Production

A Pietra Brettkelly film. Produced, directed by Brettkelly.

Crew

Camera (Sony HD cam), Jacob Bryant; editor, Irena Dol. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Spectrum), Jan. 19, 2008. Running time: 98 MIN.

With

Vanessa Beecroft, Greg Durkin, Matthu Placek, Alexa Hoyer, Jeffrey Deitch, Akot Makoi Tueny, Madit Akot Makoi, Mongor Akot Makoi.

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