Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)
Exit Through the Gift Shop is the enigmatic title of this documentary by the still unidentified British street artist Banksy. In accordance with his elusive persona, Banksy is featured mainly as a side character and interviewee, as the film presents to us one Thierry Guetta, a LA based Frenchman who tells about how he started to follow street artist pioneers around with his camera, ostensibly with the intention of making a documentary about the young artform derived from the graffiti culture. After a long search, Guetta finally gets acquainted with Banksy, the world's leading street artist, and the two form a companionship, with Guetta adding more footage to his 10,000 hour long disorganised video archive, before the relationship turns sour, and Guetta stages an audacious art exhibition of his own.
There are rumours circulating that this film, nominated for best Documentary Feature at the 83rd Academy Awards, could be a hoax, staged by Banksy and/or Guetta himself. It's easy to see why such a theory has surfaced, but the story turns out to be too incredible to be untrue. And if not, this only elevates the already stagey nature of this fascinating and often hilarious film, in which the focal point shifts in a positively ingenious manner just over halfway through. Up until then, Exit Through the Gift Shop is only semi-important as a presenter of the burgeoning world of street art, with Banksy as the up-and-coming star. Our protagonist along the way, Thierry Guetta, on the other hand, is portrayed as a publicity-craving, talkative halfwit, and he'll almost have worn you out when an incredible turn of events suddenly makes him interesting again. This is clever and biting filmmaking about interesting social phenomena and mass suggestion more than interesting people or even interesting art. Everyone from artists to connoisseurs are kicked around in this film, and Banksy, whether or not he is the string-puller behind this, ultimately reveals a grudge which may or may not be the motivation for it all.