The Thief Collector – Director Allison Otto

Allison Otto’s so unbelievable it has to be true documentary, THE THIEF COLLECTOR, follows the brazen broad daylight theft of renown artist Willem de Kooning’s landmark painting “Woman-Ochre,” in 1985. Considered to be one of the most valuable paintings of the 20th century, it vanished into the Arizona desert after being cut from its frame at the University of Arizona Museum of Art. Thirty-Two years later, the $160 million painting was found hanging in the home of Jerry and Rita Alter in rural New Mexico. THE THIEF COLLECTOR takes a deep look at how, and why, this mild-mannered couple pulled off one of the greatest art heists of a generation, exploring the complicated dynamics of family, the contours of criminality, and just how far people will go to weave their own grandiose narratives. Featuring Glenn Howerton (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and Sarah Minnich (Army of the Dead) in the “heist re-enactment”. Director Allison Otto (The Love Bugs) stops by to talk about how she came to the project, following the wildly improbable story of retired school teachers and avid world travelers led her to New Mexico and a cryptic book, written by Jerry Alter that hints at multiple art heists and even more disturbing activities that the couple may have engaged in. 


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About the filmmaker – Director Allison Otto is an Emmy winning documentary filmmaker, cinematographer, and visual journalist. Her documentary short, The Love Bugs (2019), was awarded Best Short Documentary in the 42nd Annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards after screening on POV Shorts Season 3 (2020). The film was also shortlisted for a 2019 International Documentary Association Award and is touring globally with the American Film Showcase. Allison is a 2019 recipient of the SFFILM Catapult Film Fellowship, a 2018 and 2011 Telluride Mountainfilm Commitment grant recipient, and a 2018 Roy W. Dean grant winner. Her journalism clients have included National Geographic, BBC America, NBC, the Sierra Club, Travel Channel, Atlas Obscura, and Lonely Planet. Her first feature-length documentary, THE THIEF COLLECTOR, premiered in the Feature Documentary competition at SXSW 2022.



94% on RottenTomatoes

“A movie that has used art to touch something essential about how strangers — or maybe I should just say the downright strange — walk among us.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“Unusually interesting film, even if it has nothing to say that is definitive about the theft.“ – Dennis Schwartz, Dennis Schwartz Movie Reviews

“Character driven true crime documentary about one of the most audacious art heists ever. Once the story shifts from the actual crime to those who may have committed it, things get really interesting.” – Nathaniel Muir, AIPT

“While not fully exploiting its stranger-than-fiction story, The Thief Collector is a documentary as entertaining as it is odd.” – Shaun Munro, Flickering Myth

“What begins as a spirited romp goes to dark places before it’s done’ – Jennie Kermode, Eye for Film

“This tantalizing documentary abounds with theories and rationales for the Alters’ actions.” – Kent Turner,