Vivian Maier took hundreds of thousands of photographs and made dozens of 8-mm movies before her death at 83 in 2009. Yet virtually none of this output had captured the public imagination because it had not been seen by anyone during her reclusive, elusive lifetime spent mostly working as a nanny. Today, Maier is just about the biggest thing in photography. Much of the credit for Maier’s posthumous fame has to go to John Maloof, a Chicago real-estate salesman, amateur historian and photographer who inadvertently got the Maier mania rolling in 2007 when he paid $380 for a big box of her photo negatives at an estate auction. Since then he’s dedicated his life to Maier, including the preparation of this poignant, informative, occasionally disturbing documentary. Maier in many respects remains an enigma, but Maloof’s sensitive sleuthing brings her life into sharper focus.
At VIFF: Sept. 28, 1:20 p.m., International Village; Oct. 5, 9:30 p.m., SFU; Oct. 9, 11 a.m., SFU