by: Scott Knopf
Modern street art and film have cooperated for decades now. Ever since people have been tagging walls, filmmakers have been there to chronicle their work. Graffiti documentaries such as Style Wars (1983) and Bomb It (2007) educate those who are interested in not only the artwork itself but also in the culture that produces this art. Narrative features such as Bomb the System (2002) illustrate the lifestyles of graffiti artists, often focusing on the rebelliousness and illegality of their art. Together, as a body of work, these films explore the global impact of graffiti and attempt to exemplify and validate the movement. As an addition to this canon, Exit Through the Gift Shop earns its place not only for the story it tells but also for who’s telling that story. Using one-of-a-kind hand-held footage and featuring exclusive interviews with the world’s most prolific and inexhaustible street artists, Gift Shop provides insights into the graffiti world like no other film before it. This first-person, undercover, sociologic, personal narrative not only provides an essential history of the movement but offers a unique perspective on a specific subset of that movement.
Exit Through the Gift Shop marks the directorial debut from prolific street artist Banksy. For those unfamiliar with Banksy, he hails from Britain and is responsible for countless iconographic art pieces around the world. His work includes stickers, murals, sculptures, and even installations. He often utilizes satirical imagery to speak on any number of topics from consumerism to living conditions to the idea of celebrity. Other than the work he produces, little is known about the mysterious artist. Banksy has gone to great lengths throughout his career to conceal his identity. A majority of his work is technically illegal as it’s constructed on public property and as street art laws continue to harshen, his decision to remain anonymous is easy to understand. His interviews in the film are done from behind shadows and through a voice-modification system. This is the first time Bansky has given video interviews for a film like this.
With his first feature-length documentary, Bansky decided to construct the project from the boxes of tapes stacked in his videographer’s garage. For years before Terry Guetta, an L.A. eccentric with a video camera permanently attached to his hand, began filming Banksy’s nighttime raids, he filmed a number of other infamous artists such as Shepard Fairey, Invader, and Ron English as they gave Los Angeles their own special brand of decoration. This massive collection of footage was originally turned into an “unwatchable” film (according to Banksy) called Life Remote Control. After realizing that this amazing footage shouldn’t go to such waste, he decided to make Gift Shop in an attempt to tell the story of a new age in street art through the life story of Guetta (a.k.a. Mr. Brainwash). The result is a must-see for anyone even remotely interested in art of any kind. It’ll be especially helpful for those wondering about Andre the Giant’s posse.
Directed by: Banksy
U.S./U.K., 87 min.