on The Painter and the Thief


It’s the second day of Sundance Film Festival and we’ve already seen six films. Jen and Max stayed to  round out Saturday with two more, the last one at midnight. I felt the need to come home and write about the one I just saw. Plus, it’s early in the festival and (this is my 14th Sundance) I have learned to pace myself and not make it about a competition to see the most films. It’s no fun if you’re just sick of sitting in a theater by the end. I also have been invited to the Queer Brunch tomorrow morning at 11 in Park City so I need to get to bed before too late (too late, it’s almost midnight now). I’ve been once before. The Queer Brunch is a big fancy brunch (as the name would suggest) of all the Alphabet People (LGBTQIA?LMNOP) who work in Arts and Entertainment and are fortunate enough to get to come to Sundance to see a bunch of wonderful independent films. I’m hoping to meet my husband of course, or at least make six or seven good professional contacts. If not that, to find someone to carry this package I’ve been carrying now for (pauses to do the math) ten days. I refuse to just put it on the floor because I know that someone will really appreciate it. The problem I spoke about in my blog last night seems to have corrected itself. Thanks for letting me be so vulnerable. As I’ve learned (and always expected) there are a lot of men who’ve faced similar situations for myriad reasons, physical and psychological. Never trust Man Hating mascaraing as  Feminism.
Now let’s talk about this movie; although I must say I don’t want to give away too much because I really hope you’ll see it. I don’t yet know about North American distribution but I’ll see if I can find some more information about that before I close. If not, I’ll get back to you when I know more.
Tonight I saw The Painter and the Thief, filmmaker Benjimin Ree’s engaging documentary about an unlikely and beautiful friendship.

From the Sundance program blurb about the film:
“When two paintings by Czech naturalist Barbora Kysilkova are stolen from an Oslo art gallery, Norwegian authorities quickly identify and arrest the two thieves but find no trace of the paintings. Hoping to learn what happened, Barbora approaches one of the thieves, Karl-Bertil Nordland, at his criminal hearing. She asks if she can paint his portrait and, contrite, he agrees. What follows—over a series of portraits and many years—is an extraordinary story of human connection and friendship.”

I’m still reeling a bit from the film. (get it?) I met the painter from the film, Barbora Kysilkova afterwards and had a wonderful conversation with her. Her partner, Øystien Stene was also at the screening and was featured in the film. He and I connected after; he is also a writer and we’ve pledged to keep in touch. Karl-Bertil wasn’t able to make the trip but I made a marriage proposal via Instagram after they announced his wishing for it to be known that he is now single (he is the “thief” from the title). I’m pretty sure he was sending that message to women in that in the movie all his previous partners have been women but I’ll still anxiously await his acceptance or refusal. The entire audience made a little video of our appreciation for him, for what he’s gone through, and for what he’s become. The producer was also making little videos outside the theater to send to Karl-Bertil. I’m pretty sure I started mine with, “Hey, I’m the guy who just proposed to you on Instagram…”

I live in the United States, a country which, in 2020, seems to be full of people who are ready to go to war with their fellow human over even the tiniest infringement. Leave your garbage can in front of the neighbor’s driveway and expect fierce retaliation, take only two poop bags on a three poop dog walk, it’s the death penalty. Barbora Kysilkova is an exceptional human, apparently sees something inside the heart of the man who stole her art that is worthy of friendship and redemption. She inspires me to be a better person. If the man who stole my external hard drive with all my Iraq pictures, 1000 hours of video journal, and my book gets murdered, I probably did it.
Again, I’ll not risk saying more about the film because I hope you’ll see it and I want you to have the same experience I did of knowing almost nothing about it before you watch.
In dark times, messages of hope are a welcome respite. Don’t miss this one.



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