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ABOVE: Parezza Ballando (Couple Dancing) by Fernando Botero
Botero shows at 3:15, Sun. Apr. 28 at
AMC Theaters, Sundial as part of the
through Saturday April 28.


Botero shows at 3:15, Sun. Apr. 28 at AMC Theaters, Sundial
as part of the SUNSCREEN FILM FESTIVAL in St. Petersburg
Thurs April 25- Saturday April 28, 2019

By Frances Brennan

"You see I like this fullness. This generosity, this sensuality that you communicate. Because, you know, reality is rather dry," artist Fernando Botero explains in the film Botero, speaking of a key trait in his style. Botero has worked daily in his studio, 6 days a week, throughout his life. "My goal is to paint better than anyone else." He says in the film at age 86.

Botero tells the story of Fernando Botero, possibly the world's most recognized living artist. It will be shown at Sunscreen Film Festival on Sunday, April 28th at 3:15 pm at AMC Theaters, Sundial in downtown St. Petersburg. The screenwriter, Juan Carlos Botero, son of Fernando Botero, will be present.

Botero is 86 today, and still painting daily in his Monaco studio. The documentary, directed by filmmaker Don Millar (Oil Slick, Full Force, Off The Clock), previously screened at the Morelia International Film Festival in Mexico, Palm Springs International Film Festival, and Miami International Film Festival.

Botero's is an inspiring story for all artists and creators. His dedication to his art, to his techque, to growing as an artist and to bringing new levels of expression to his work daily has been his constant, focused, lifetime pursuit.

Botero began his career as an artist by proving himself in the storied, romanticized way that few actually live. He moved to New York from his native Columbia to become a painter with only $200.

A large part of what would lead Botero to eventual success as an artist was his commitment to his chosen path; his decision to keep painting even in trying times. When friends in Columbia told him he was crazy to want to be an artist, he didn't listen. "Luckily, my mother was supportive." he says, "If she was not..."

In spite of financial pressure, he always stuck with his art. In the film, Botero tells of how he found a first studio in New York, began painting night and day, and got down to only $27. "I realized I had to do something" he explains. He tells of how he worked constantly to find people to buy his paintings and began selling them at prices as low as $10 each, or less. Because he had so many paintings, it began to add up. "Eventually I had $700." he explains.

Botero was discovered within a year of his arrival in New York. Soon, his work was in the Museum Of Modern Art, a leader of national and worldwide taste even then. The documentary tells the story of his life as a working artist from this point.

Interestingly, in spite of his determination, Botero explains that he felt a lot of insecurity about his art early in his career because his work was figuratiive rather than abstract, the prevailing style of the time. Botero talks about this at length and about his way of overcoming it.

He speaks extensively in the film. Together with experts and his children, he guides you to a full view of the evolution of his work and career in the true context and environment of his personal life.

The artist has his critics, and, rather than ignoring them, the film gives them an open airing of their views, calling Botero's work, "terrible", and saying "I think it's the pillsbury dough boy." This helps to bring the criticisms of Botero's work into the open, Without specifically stating it, the film shows their triviality in comparison to his dedication, lifetime success and gorgeous body of work.

Many experts see its quality, and the documentary skillfully guides the viewer to the most interesting elements of Botaro's work, while featuring beautiful footage filmed in 10 cities in China, Colombia, France, Italy, Monaco and the United States and early personal photos and film of the artist.

It relates the details of Botero's life largely in his own voice and through the eyes of his children, giving an insightful and personal view. Botero's family adds intensely personal details about their family life and its impact on his work that only they could share.

One aspect of Botero's work that has always been controversial is his unique level of humor, satire and irony. It has been a source of criticism for some, while other experts feel that this is what gives his work the ability to make a strong statement. While many artists weave these qualities into their paintings in an almost hidden way, Botero leaves them on the surface. His work makes bold statements through size, position and, most of all, the evocative expressions of his subjects. Botero speaks extensively about the reasons for his dedication to this element of his style, one of the most revealing parts of the film.

The significant qualities of his work are beautifully explored and developed throughout in a way that is clear and easy to understand, while sharing a personal, incredibly close, behind-the-scenes view. The very private artist gives an open look at the evolution of his career and his life today, in his own words, with his children adding their memories from their perspective. Their esteem for their father is clear in their words, revealing more about the artist as a person than any direct statement.

Botero is a rare look into the story and inner circle of one of the world's most known and accomplished creators.

"Art should be a refuge, an oasis from the hardships of life." Botero says in the film.

Mona Lisa Age 12, 1959 by Fernando Botero with the artist

Horse, 2011 by Fernando Botero

I spoke with Director Don Millar before the opening of the 2019 Sunscreen Film Festival.

What was your relationship with Fernando Botero and his work before making this film?
I have been a friend of Botero’s daughter so I saw the artist through a family lens. Like most people, however, I was familiar with the work as it is ubiquitous around the world.

What drew you to make this film about Botero now?
I attended Botero’s opening in Beijing and was struck by two things. First, I was surprised by his popularity and appeal in a culture so different from his own. Secondly, I found Botero himself intriguing as he found his way through all of the chaos surrounding his visit in a way that was calm, enigmatic and vaguely amused. The combination of these factors made a lightbulb go off in my head about what great potential this had.

What did you learn about Botero while making the film that surprised you?
I was surprised and inspired by his commitment to his craft and the boyish enthusiasm he still takes into the studio six days a week. To see an artist in his 80s using words like “discover” and “learn” was very moving – an experience made more so by the fact we were in his sunny and expansive studio in Monaco.
Trailer for "Botero"