One of my faves from this year’s Sundance was the street art docu Exit Through the Gift Shop. I pondered in my Twitch review the validity of some of the factual aspects of the film. The film’s premier this week at the Berlin Film Fest finds both IndieWire’s Eugene Hernandez and the NY Times’ Manohla Dargis also pondering the same thing. While I think Dargis is off the mark in suggesting that Banksy and Thierry Guetta (aka Mr. Brainwash) might be one and the same – there is no doubt that some elements comprise more than meets the narrative eye.
…Or maybe not. Maybe every piece of the story is exactly how it is portrayed in the doc. Is it really so hard to believe that Banksy took over the editing duties from the schizotron Guetta and was able to put together this fascinating piece of documentation? Maybe it is simply hard for us to believe that someone as subversive as Banksy would do anything that straight forward. How can we trust a man who won’t even show his face?
Regardless, the real story here is how successful the film is at documenting the movement. Just imagine if cameras were rolling when Cézanne and Pissarro were first experimenting together with impressionist landscapes – or when Duchamp and Man Ray were questioning art’s very definitions. Exit Through the Gift Shop gives us exactly this look at the rise of street art – even if Guetta’s/Banksy’s lens is a bit greased up.