Movie #151 Exit Through the Gift Shop
(2010, US/UK, d. Banksy)
This, along with The Cove and Grizzly Man, makes the list of my top 3 favorite documentaries. And though a lot of hype surrounds this film for possibly being a hoax, I personally believe the story is simply too ridiculous and too fantastic to be made up, even by Banksy. It’s hard summarizing the film in a sentence but I’ll try: A “filmmaker” of sorts named Thierry Guetta attempts to make a film about street art and eventually captures the attention of the renowned Banksy, who decides that Guetta is a much more interesting subject and turns the camera on him. It’s a fantastic premise and the movie – which is now Banksy’s movie – becomes about Guetta, how he discovered the street art movement, how he followed then-unknown street artists, how he came to meet Banky, etc.. Capturing street art from its early movement to the present day, Exit Through the Gift Shop contains some truly awesome events captured on camera. For instance, we get to see a (blurred) Banksy place his Guantanamo Bay figure in Disneyland and subsequently have most of Disneyland shut down, we get to see Shepard Fairey at work, and we get to the see the first days of Invader as he placed his art around Paris. But the best thing of all that we get to witness is the overnight fame of Thierry Guetta. After Banksy takes a look at the “documentary” Guetta made, he tells Guetta to go do some small street art of his own, while unbeknownst to Guetta, Bansky would make his own film from Thierry’s footage. What happened next is unbelievable. We literally witness Guetta become a major modern art/street art player overnight. He refinances his home, mortgages, and everything – all to put into this one art show he envisions becoming the biggest in LA. Spending months with a staff creating surprisingly cool pieces, he gets a couple of quotes from Shepard Fairey and Banksy (both of whom felt uncomfortable giving them) and uses them for hype. His show ends up becoming the biggest thing in LA and by the time it’s over, he has made over 1 million dollars. And now the documentary is about something else – “Is there cheap art?” “Is street art supposed to be studied?” “Is there unfair art?” “Can people actually recognize real art?” “What is art?” Though I haven’t seen the rest of Oscar nominated documentaries, considering the hype this one has, I’d be surprised if the Oscar went to anything else. Guys, please do check this out. Right now.