Exit Through the Gift Shop
A documentary that explores one of the most elusive secrets of all time: street art.
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The infamous British graffiti street artist Banksy, who has continuously remained anonymous, has literally left his mark on cities throughout the world.
Released in 2010, the documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop” tells the story of how he came into contact with Thierry Guetta, a Los Angeles-based Frenchman who videotapes various underground art escapades. (He later transformed into an art phenomenon dubbed “Mr. Brainwash.”) Rhys Ifans narrates an overlapping documentary where the line between what is real and what might be fake blurs, as modern art and celebrity are put under the microscope.
The film contains exclusive footage of Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Invader and many of the worlds most infamous graffiti artists at work on walls and in interviews.
As Banksy describes it, “It’s basically the story of how one man set out to film the un-filmable. And failed!”
The widespread speculation that “Exit Through the Gift Shop” is a hoax only adds to its fascination. There has been debate over whether the documentary is genuine or a mockumentary.
Regarding this speculation, Banksy answers a simple “Yes” when asked if the film is real.
Either way, it is Banksy whom audiences will come hoping to see, excited by the web of hype that he has carefully created. What they will find is, like some of Banksy’s best work, a trompe l’oeil: a film that looks like a documentary but feels like a monumental con.
The film depends entirely on Guetta, a combination TV pitchman, a cartoon Frenchman and a chatty con man. Its footage really has been edited from a decade of tapes made clandestinely while L.A. graffiti artists risked arrest and death to create their paintings in spectacular places. Guetta fearlessly followed them right out into ledges and helped them carry supplies to places other people might balk at.
Banksy has said in interviews that editing the film together was an arduous process, noting that “I spent a year […] watching footage of sweaty vandals falling off ladders” and “The film was made by a very small team. It would have been even smaller if the editors didn’t keep having mental breakdowns. They went through over 10,000 hours of Thierry’s tapes and got literally seconds of usable footage out of it.” Producer Jaimie D’Cruz wrote in his production diary that obtaining the original tapes from Guetta was particularly complicated.
It is also possible, as reflected in web rumors that Banksy was inspired to make this film by Orson Welles’ “F for Fake,” that this story as a whole or in parts is some kind of giant prank or elaborate performance piece that Guetta is either a witting or unwitting participant in. Only the ever elusive Banksy knows for sure.
Either way, this is a documentary you don’t want to miss.