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Exit Through the Gift Shop. Wow.

Posted by on April 2, 2011

I’ve been trying to see myself as a filmmaker and really live the life and ingest as many film related things as possible. I do well when I flood my system this way. This has meant working with video, editing, listening to film podcasts like “Film Threat“, reading about films, following news about filmmaking and, of course, watching many more films than I have in a long time. This is in any form: on the my laptop via Netflix, DVDs on TV, cable, and taking my 3 year old to see movies;  just to share in the experience of seeing a film on the big screen with an audience.

Kite Runner Family. Street art by Banksy

Tonight “Exit Through the Gift Shop” was one of 3 films that arrived in the mail via Netflix. I’d been waiting for it and was pleasantly surprised, though exhausted and woozy from sleep deprivation. I struggled to put my daughter to bed and then popped it in and sat back. What a ride! I can say that it surpassed my expectations because even as a write this I am ignorant of its accolades and purposely so. I try to take films on their own without all the hype, mainly because I don’t like to be let down. But I’ve heard this film mentioned both in writing and podcasts and I still didn’t know quite what it was about or what to expect. Wasn’t it nominated for an academy award? Didn’t it win? I don’t know. I’m not into awards shows because I think they’re rigged and mostly a popularity contest that has little to do with their work.

So I won’t spoil the film. But I will say that it’s about street art from the perspective of a an odd Frenchmen who habitually videotapes his life and the lives of those around him. He winds up somehow in the heart of a street art movement; a classic case of being in the right place at the right time. But he embraces it and it consumes him in a way that it beyond what a typical filmmaker would do. Eventually the film spins in an unexpected direction when the camera is turned on him as he begins to take part in the street art scene as an artist. He dons the moniker “Mister Brainwash” or “MBW” and what unfolds is incredible. And really, a work of art in itself.

Documentary filmmakers who put themselves in front of the camera without any good reason annoy me. It’s self serving and completely unnecessary. But this is a case where doing so made sense and wasn’t motivated by ego per se, but actually is just part of the story. I won’t say more than that.

After the film I decided to look it up on Twitter, to see what people were saying. Turns out many people watched it along with me tonight, around the same time anyway. Which is kind of cool, considering we were all watching in our own way and through various devices. Our twitter comments and time stamps united us though we were spread across the globe.

Twitter comments

A key character in the film is an artist known as “Banksy”. His true identity is hidden so he’s interviewed with a synthesized voice and in shadows always with a hood pulled over his head. His artwork is thought provoking and often beautiful. He works with stencils sometimes and typically his art is a commentary on a social or political topic. The piece shown above was done in LA. It’s a take on the no fleeing zone signs for immigrants tempted to dash across the highway from Mexico. Banksy is a true artist and cult hero. I hope to write more about him as I learn more.

Off to dream in spray paint.

One Response to Exit Through the Gift Shop. Wow.

  1. Patti

    I love Banksy’s stuff, too. There are several published collections of photos of his work that I’ve gotten out of the library. They’re swell.
    What really fascinated me was the manic production of the main character, and hw it was all aobut self-promotion and the “reality show” life he leads…