Art fraud, drug dealing, rape and controversy all surround Jamie Kastner's latest documentary feature There Are No Fakes. In 2005, Kevin Hearn of Barenaked Ladies purchased what he thought was an original Norval Morrisseau painting for the sum of $20,000. Soon after he would discover that the painting was in fact a fake and would take action against this case. Kastner's insightful and riveting documentary tells the most un-Canadian true story you can't even imagine. Having been premiered earlier this year at the Hot Docs Film Festival in Toronto to critical acclaim, I had the chance to speak with Jamie Kastner about There Are No Fakes and his career.
How did the story end up on your lap?
I know Kevin Hearn from high school and in addition to the Barenaked Ladies, Kevin had played with Lou Reed and when Reed died I wanted to make a film on him. That didn't happen. Kevin told me that he was embroiled in this case and thought maybe I'd be interested in it. We met for lunch and told me his story about the case and the surrounding drama and my jaw dropped. It's almost unbelievable with all the twists and turns, it's so un-Canadian. I agreed to take on the project since it was right up my alley. It struck me that it could be an art fraud film for people who didn't normally care about art fraud and an indigenous abuse story.
The film is put together like a crime thriller - is that what you were going for?
Let's face it: there are a lot of boring documentaries out there. While putting this film together I had sense of what I was going to do, and I'll put it to you this way; I would come back from each shoot, enter the editing room and my editor would say "holy f*ck". This entire shoot was a series of "holy f*ck" moments and that's what I wanted to bring to the viewers.
How long did it take you to make this doc?
I met with Kevin Hearn in late 2015. We then waited for financing and the right platform to launch the film; in this case it was the Hot Docs Festival. It was about a 2-3 year process.
How were you able to portray the many comedic and sensitive themes in this film?
This film has a very wide tonal range within one story. The real challenge was how to marry the dark comedy elements with the very dark and shocking revelations. You want this to have journalistic integrity and that you're not making fun of people.
Your film is Oscar-worthy; how do you get it qualified?
That's very nice of you to say. I've had Oscar-qualifying films before and it seems like such a lottery, but what needs to happen is you need to screen the film in NYC and L.A., there's a bunch of rules that have to be followed. The film has only been released in Canada, but has received interest internationally, but we've yet to secure an American distribution.
Why is it so important for people to see There Are No Fakes?
I think that this film touches on a number of really pressing contemporary issues that are often discussed either historically or in abstract terms. Firstly, It pulls the lid off the largest art fraud scam in Canadian history, secondly, it's quite entertaining and thirdly it tells an incredible story about one of Canada's most important artists; Norval Morrisseau and the disregard to him and his people. Somehow all of that and more is wrapped up in an exciting caper.
Be sure to look for screenings of There Are No Fakes across Canada. The film is currently screening in Montreal until July 25th, be sure to buy your tickets today at www.therearenofakes.com. Many thanks to Jamie Kastner for taking time to speak to me about this incredible film.
Gianni Fiasche lives and breathes all that is entertainment. Since a very young age he has been a film and music enthusiast. Gianni watches and reviews over 200 films a year, attends hundreds of concerts, and loves listening to old and new music. When he isn’t doing these activities, you’ll find him spending quality time with family and friends. You can follow him on Instagram as @snobreviews.