Apr 2, 2011

Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010) - a documentary about how not to make a documentary about street art

directed by Banksy

Thierry Guatta is a Frenchman living in Los Angleles, a shop keeper, who never goes anywhere without his video camera. He then becomes involved in street art, and gets to film some artists in their work, saying he is making a documentary about the subject. In reality, he has no intention of turning the hours and hours and hours of shaky, incoherent material into an actual film, or, in fact, ever to even watch again what he's been filming.

When Banksy, maybe the best-know street artist in the world right now, enters the picture, he convinces Thierry to finally make the film. However, seeing the outcome, Banksy realises he has to make the documentary his own business. ("It was at that point that I realized that maybe Thierry wasn't actually a film maker, and he was maybe just someone with mental problems who happened to have a camera.") He turns the camera to Thierry instead and makes him the film's central character.

I'm a fan of Banksy's art. And that's saying something, because I can't say that about any other artist in the world. I love the more or less subtle comments he makes about the world, the stupidity of people, the society, etc. I love his imagination. I love that what he does is not 100 % legal. I love that he keeps his identity a secret. He's such a cool, rebellious and inspiring character! So I was very much looking forward to seeing the film, and even though it wasn't as much about Banksy himself as it was about Thierry, I found it entertaining and funny and clever and interesting.

Thierry is kind of a ridiculous personality. You don't really know what to make of him, because with the silly accent and the curious and care-free naivety, it's hard to take him seriously. And yet, you can't but like him. Some say the whole film is a hoax and Thierry is just a fake character created by Banksy. In any case, he's fun to look at, so I don't bother myself with conspiracy theories.

I have to say I didn't get everything it had to offer out of the film, because the fact that my DVD has no subtitles didn't work very well with crunchy, loud snacks and Banksy's heavy Bristol accent (oh and that his voice had been altered didn't help too much, either). But I got the point. Or did I? If there was one specific message, it didn't come across loud and clear. And that's just good, isn't it? For one, the film ridicules the commercialism that has struck street art in the recent years. Come see an exhibition... and exit through the gift shop. Another thing is, quite bluntly... what is art? Can anyone be an artist? Could I be one? (I could certainly conquer the world with the best (and only) thing I can do with a pencil: stick figures. Just wait and see, one day people will pay millions.)

Anyway, Exit Through the Gift Shop is highly recommended! It's difficult to describe and difficult to write about, but not at all difficult to like.

"I used to encourage everyone I knew to make art. I don't do that so much anymore."


Click below for a massive surge of Banksy's art. Because.

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