Exit Through the Gift Shop
Wall Street brokers cast an interesting shadow …

Theatrical Release Date: 04/30/2010 (USA), 03/05/2010 (UK)
Director: Banksy
Featuring: Rhys Ifans (narrator), Thierry Guetta, Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Space Invader
Rated: R for some language.
Runtime: 1 hour, 27 minutes

Golden Mug2010 Golden Mug

Best Documentary


This is what I do when I can’t sleep.

Graffiti is the pejorative moniker denoting some cleverly misspelled tagger like Frogg3r or Mysdemeanor had visited the liquor store wall or an invitation for late night Tom Foolery via the rest stop toilet stall.

Street art attempts to present a message via provocative, clever or repetitious images and/or add a sense of life to an otherwise drab and blank space. No doubt by now, while driving or walking around many major cities, you’ve seen a remarkably well-composed spray-painted piece of art on a wall, power box or street sign.

While some may consider it to be an eye-sore and it might technically run afoul of local legal statutes, I’d argue that for all the graffiti that is simply brute expression of emotion, true street art is a valid artistic manifestation worthy of appreciation and respect. (Although I’m sure there are many in the community that wouldn’t see the term graffiti as negatively as I’m denoting it).

In any case, “Exit Through the Gift Shop” actually began as another documentary called “Life Remote Control” by aspiring filmmaker Thierry Guetta. This quirky Frenchman turned Californian had become obsessed with filming every second of his life and took a video camera with him at all times. Stumbling onto the street art scene via his cousin, he then embarks on a mission to learn all he can about the culture – even participating and eventually becoming a street artist himself (in a manner of speaking). To complete his intended opus, Guetta’s white whale is Banksy, whom he meets via another giant in the scene, Shepard Fairey (yes, the guy who made the infamous Hope poster of President Obama). Once Banksy is on board, it seems Guetta has all he needs to finish the project.

The final film presented to audiences though is not Guetta’s. Renowned street artist Banksy took the raw footage and recut it all, focusing the film on Guetta though still incorporating a good deal of information about the sub culture. What is laid out for us to see is nothing short of a cinematic treat. The music matches nicely, the pacing is done remarkably well and it’s a nice balance of talking heads to actual events/art creation and installation.

What’s even more impressive is the societal statement on fame and groupthink that Banksy is able to make via this documentary. Sure, the fun in much of the film is to see the inventive art and wonder if Guetta should be on Ritalin – however, there are many interesting ideas and thoughts brought up not only by the art but the artists themselves. This is especially true when we are given a quick look (too quick, actually) at Banksy’s work on walls in the West Bank on the Gaza Strip and towards the end of the film as the very notion of what constitutes art itself is questioned.

Now, as the film is supposedly the work of Banksy, there’s another layer to the whole project: is the “final” documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop” all an elaborate hoax? Are they presenting a film to audiences, purporting it to be art, as some meta discussion of society’s ability to recognize true art? The title itself is a commentary on the mainstream nature of art, as art museums have patrons ‘exit through the gift shop’. I can’t say to be sure … I can only make a decision for myself about whether Guetta is playing a role or just an ADD fanboy of the street art world; whether Banksy even made this film or if it’s all a prank on audiences … you’ll have to make your own decisions.

Even though I wanted to see more street art, which is largely in the first half of the picture, I was absolutely riveted by what unveiled on-screen as Banksy was able to pace and peel away the layers of the documentary so very well – earning “Exit Through the Gift Shop” a 5 out of 5. This is a MUST SEE and whether it’s the art, the psychology or the sociology of the film that grabs your attention, all that matters is getting into the theater (check out their official website for dates and locations).

5 out of 5