BOTERO Film Review – My Life Is to Paint!

His grown daughter and youngest son are opening a storage locker in New York City that Botero had not accessed in more than 40 years. We feel the excitement as they reveal lockers of hidden treasures, including portfolios of drawings and paintings on rolled canvasses.

So opens BOTERO, foreshadowing the artist obsessed with art we get to know intimately in this film.

It is easy to think of this man constantly sketching on napkins in restaurants, drawing in the margins of his school notebooks as a child, riding the subways and seeing constant inspiration in all people and all things. As he says, I am not a slave to reality. I am a slave to art.


His work has to be seen to be appreciated, in this writer’s view. It’s large scale; typically over two meters in height. His colors are rich and bright, evoking the palate of the tropics. Avocado greens, pepper reds, mango ochres, and luminous flesh tones. His figures are large, exaggerated, with great volume that project strength. He paints sensuous, lounging figures. He sculpts horses and birds. He paints portraits laden with allegories. He makes fun of political figures. At times, Botero is driven to capture some of the senseless violence of world. He has painted figuratively his entire career. Now in his late 80s, Botero’s work stands out in its own niche. Today, Botero has the most exhibitions, the greatest attendance at his shows, and the most literature written about him--more than any living artist. Yet, what we learn most from this film, is that Botero remains a humble man.


BOTERO is a narrative of the artist’s life through his development, the impact upon seeing the great masters of European Art, and his prolific work. He was also deeply impacted by the tragic accidental death of his fourth child.  The film traces the artist’s origins to his birthplace in Medellin, Columbia. His father was a salesman traveling on horseback until he died suddenly when the artist was very young. His mother was a seamstress and struggled to support her three sons. The artist was largely self-taught, reputedly kicked out of school when he criticized Picasso’s cubism.

Botero married in the early 1960s and moved his family to the center of art, New York City, just as Abstract Expressionism was waning and Pop Art exploded. In a small studio, Botero painted: women; men; fruit; caricatures of political figures and the Catholic Church. Fortuitously, a curator for the Museum of Modern Art chanced by his studio and bought a piece. Suddenly he was in MOMA, and his career was launched.

Botero attains great prominence in the art world, with many international exhibitions of his work. He continues to paint and sculpt, enhancing museums and public spaces with his paintings and sculptures. The beauty of his work is not without the influence of unfortunate personal events, violence in Columbia and the Abu Ghraib prison torture. (Reader alert: the violence and prison paintings are graphic.)

The film is comprehensive, entertaining and insightful, and it projects warmth and a vibrant love of the human spirt and life. Botero’s popularity on the world-wide stage echoes his larger-than-life figures. These robust subjects appeal to a range of humanity and project a real zest for life. BOTERO is full of great artist quotes.  It contains interviews with the artist, gallery owners, museum curators, his three children and family members, and it contains archival photographs, film clips and even a critic that compares his work to the Pillsbury Doughboy. One of his family members says, “You can’t create a work of genius without first being controversial.”

Botero says “Reality is dry. One has to live in love with life.”

This film is highly recommended for all art lovers, art students, art history and film documentarians, and anyone in this time of COVID who wants to feel alive.


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BOTERO (2018)
Genre: Documentary
RT: 84 minutes
Directed by Don Millar
Written by Don Millar, Hart Snider
Produced by Joe Tucker, Eric Hogan, Don Millar
Executive Producers Lina Botero Zea, Kerri Borsuk, Jan Rofekamp, Betsy Stahl, J Joly
Director of Photography Johan Legraie, Joe Tucker
Production Designer Don Millar
Music by David Bertok
Sound Designer Richard Ochoa
Edited by Hart Snider
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Sound: 5.1 Surround Sound + Stereo
Language: English, Spanish, Italian, French with English Subtitles

For more information and an up-to-date list of opening dates visit the Corinth Films webpage on BOTERO

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Images courtesy of BOTERO

Caryn Hoffmann
Caryn Hoffmann

About Caryn Hoffman

Ms. Hoffman has a degree in art and her life’s work has been environmentally and  politically focused. After community organizing on both coasts, she had a career as an educator in Southern California. Now, semi-retired, Ms. Hoffman leads an active, outdoor lifestyle, continues to advocate for the environment and travels. She is especially fond of art, film, cultural events and is an ardent, live music fan. She loves adventure travel including camping, hiking, kayaking, rafting and road biking.

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2 thoughts on “BOTERO Film Review – My Life Is to Paint!

  1. Caryn: Am not familiar with his work but am impressed with what is shown in his biographical sketch. Finished reading the book on plants that you sent in two sittings. Think I will recommend it to the book club your mom and I belong to when our turn to select comes around.

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