Originally published on Documentary Digest.
Banksy’s critically acclaimed Exit Through the Gift Shop is streaming on Netflix. If you have a subscription, watch this documentary. It is a must-see for anyone interested in street art and graffiti.
IMDb gave it 8.1 out of 10, and the top reviewer said, “Despite being directed by a street artist and evidently put together from thousands of different tapes, Exit Through the Gift Shop is amazingly well directed. It doesn’t feel hyped, it doesn’t seem to lie or exaggerate the happenings and the fact that an interesting, motivated and special character gets to portrait (sic) everything from an outside view is fascinating to watch.”
On Rotten Tomatoes, it received a 96 percent from critics and 92 percent from audience reviews. “Banksy exposes the con-job that is modern art for what it is,” said Roger Moore from Movie Nation.
“I don’t know how to play chess, but to me, life is like a game of chess,” said Thierry Guetta (aka Mr. Brainwash), left.
This documentary is a hilarious, thought-provoking journey that follows the story of Guetta as he follows around famous street artists and, by association, becomes one himself.
Guetta is obsessed with documenting everything. After his mother died, he seemingly developed a disorder and started carrying a video camera with him every day, recording every mundane interaction until something significant happened. Guetta stumbled upon the underground graffiti art scene.
While on vacation to France, Guetta realized his own cousin was a street artist who goes by Invader, and started filming him. Guetta became enthralled but eventually had to return home to his family in Los Angeles.
But the two would soon reconnect.
Invader traveled to Los Angeles and set up a meeting with Guetta and Shepard Fairey, the well renowned street artist and activist who made the Obama “Hope” poster. Invader introduced Guetta as a documentary film maker to Fairey, and Guetta started filming nightly outings as the two artists marked up the streets of Los Angeles. When Invader returned home, Guetta kept filming Shepard Fairey.
After filming Fairey for awhile, Guetta was passed off to anonymous street artist and anti-hero Banksy, all under the guise that Guetta was creating an underground street-artist masterpiece documentary.
Guetta followed Banksy around long enough to earn his trust. That’s when things start to get really interesting, but I’ll spare you the spoilers.
Exit Through the Gift Shop uses Guetta as a surrogate for outsiders to catch a glimpse into reclusive street artists and their craft. It’s as fascinating as it is hilarious to witness Guetta get peddled from artist to artist, making somewhat of a name for himself along the way. The very definition of art is questioned and playfully mocked over the span of 87 minutes. But is the joke on us? There has been much speculation of the legitimacy of this film–whether or not it’s a “prankumentary,” as The New York Times reviewer Jeannette Catsoulis put it. Regardless, it makes for one hell of a movie.
Check out the trailer.