Exit Through the Gift Shop, the street-art documentary credited to Banksy, was one of the best films of 2010, and also one of the most challenged on the basis of authenticity. The film purports to chronicle the street art of Banksy and Shepard Fairey through the lens of a camera held by wealthy dilettante artist Thierry Guetta. At least that’s the basis for part of the film, before Banksy turned the cameras on Guetta as the latter became a wannabe artist named Mr. Brainwash.

Is the film ‘real’? Is Mr. Brainwash an actual practicing artist or part of a long con perpetrated by Banksy for the purpose of documentary satire? The story is so strange some assumed it couldn’t be true.

Now Ron English, another street artist with connections to Banksy, says the film is definitely real, and that it was born when Guetta refused to turn over hundreds of hours of video he’d shot of Fairey and Banksy in action. Read More »

The issue of Banksy‘s anonymity isn’t the only point of contention hanging over this coming Sunday’s Oscar festivities. The artist-turned-filmmaker’s picture, Exit Through the Gift Shop, is anticipated to take home the award for Best Documentary, but is it actually a documentary? That niggling concern has resulted in much debate ever since the film’s first screening at the Sundance Film Festival last year, and now more than ever, the need for cogent confirmation on the matter has become something of a necessity.

This raises the question: Where has Mr. Brainwash been throughout all of this? Banksy recently spoke out about the veracity of the film, proclaiming that it’s “100% true”. It’s no surprise that he’d make such a claim; he directed the film. But what of the man whose image could have conceivably been tarnished by the film? Where does he stand regarding the film’s authenticity, and does he constitute a credible source? Read what he had to say after the break.
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Exit Through The Gift Shop

The most entertaining film released to date in 2010 isn’t a tentpole, a potential blockbuster, a 3D epic or a high-concept fantasy. It is Exit Through the Gift Shop, a documentary that may be at least partially fiction. I hope it is partially fiction, but which part doesn’t really matter. Purportedly orchestrated by Banksy, the most famous and elusive of street artists, the film skirts the edge of pretension as it peers into the midnight world of artists who tag, stencil and poster public spaces. But the film is orchestrated as what?

The subject is art, but the tipping points are personality and desire. At the center of it all is a schlumpy man, a retailer turned filmmaker turned artist who may actually be too perfect a subject to be true. He is a lens through which we can clearly see so much about what art can be to individuals, and what it becomes when someone slaps on a price tag, and whether is all bullshit from moment one, anyway.

(Note: The facts of the film discussed below are well-known in some circles, but if you’re coming to this story completely cold — which is the best way to do it — consider this review as containing mild spoilers.) Read More »

Exit Through The Gift Shop

My favorite movie from the 2010 Sundance Film Festival was a documentary titled Exit Through The Gift Shop. While the project was being touted as a feature film by street artist Banksy, the film actually has no credited director. The film starts out as a documentary by a video camera-obsessed Frenchman named Thierry Guetta — With a love for street art, and connections into the scene, Thierry sets out to capture the most elusive street artists Banksy.

Of course, the film becomes something much different, and far more elaborate. I don’t want to give any more away, and I recommend that you don’t look for more information about the project — this is the type of film that is much better if you go into it without knowing anything about it).

The sad fact is that for many everyday cinema-goers, feature-length documentaries are a hard sell. People are willing to watch documentaries on tv or dvd, but few will pay the full ticket price to see a doc on the big screen. This is why they have released the first five minutes of Exit Through The Gift Shop online. If you think you might be interested, watch it. If you don’t think this is something you should see on the big screen, watch it. I can’t recommend this movie any more highly. And if you don’t want to just take my word for it, the film is currently 100% on Rotten Tomatoes with 19 rated reviews filed thus far. See it as soon as you can.

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British street artist Banksy has been creating attention-getting stenciled grafitti for years. Over the past decade, as his artistic profile has risen, Banksy’s identity has remained almost totally secret. And yet, here he is with a film in the Sundance Film Festival. Exit Through the Gift Shop is…well, we’re not yet sure exactly what it is. Billed as a ‘pseudo-documentary’ and described by Banksy as “The story of how one man set out to film the un-filmable. And failed,” the film might show Banksy at work and reveal something about the artist. Then again, it might not. Read More »