TORONTO — Despite the title of his new film, Jamie Kastner's 114-minute uncovering of shady dealings in the art world takes viewers on what the documentary's promoters describe as a journey into the largest art fraud scam in Canadian history.
There Are No Fakes, produced and directed by Kastner, brings into question the authenticity of works purported to be those of the late Indigenous artist Norval Morrisseau, the founder of the Woodland School of art.
It premieres Monday evening at the Hot Docs Film Festival in Toronto.
The film's origins lie in a conversation Kastner had with his former high school friend, musician Kevin Hearn of Barenaked Ladies.
"He told me an unbelievable tale...a court case that had dragged him into a larger feud...it involved a painting by legendary Ojibway artist Norval Morrisseau," a statement from Kastner says.
He said, the story—parts of which had been covered in the press—grew and took numerous twists until "it all sounded too wild to be true."
Kastner, however, became a believer after meeting and interviewing other individuals connected to the story.
He also uncovered, he said, behaviour that went beyond art fraud "into the world of abuse of Indigenous people."
In an interview with Tbnewswatch, Kastner said "What we unveil, ultimately, is a huge pattern of cultural abuse and physical abuse. The work of one our great Canadian artists has been defiled by a large-scale fraud operation. In terms of the inner workings of that fraud operation, there was also horrible abuse of Indigenous people going on."
The production crew did considerable filming in Morrisseau's birthplace of Thunder Bay [some sources say he was born near Beardmore] where, he said, "rumours of the kind of thing which we substantiate in the film have, I understand, been floating around for a long time."
Kastner added that a number of people connected to the story in Thunder Bay "are not so unknown."
He hopes to arrange for a theatrical screening of There Are No Fakes in the city later this year.