14 May 2011

Documentary: Exit Through the Gift Shop

Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1587707/

This documentary is about Thierry Guetta aka "Mr. Brainwash".  We meet his self years ago, after he emigrated to the US and started a clothing store. But that's just establishing the baseline of who he was before he became "Mr. Brainwash."  He's obsessed with videotaping everything. Everywhere he goes, everything that happens around him. While visiting his cousin, French street artist "Invader," he follows him and films him putting up his works around the city. Thus begins the multi-year obsession of Thierry to insert himself into the street artist world, filming anyone and everyone he can follow. To gain acceptance he tells them he's making a documentary about street artists. In reality Thierry has never made a film, knows nothing about putting a film together, he just records everything and stuffs the tapes in boxes, thousands of tapes, never to view them again.
He accumulates thousands of hours of footage on many street artists, including some of the best-known.  But his new goal was tracking down English street artist Banksy to document his process too. But it doesn't end when he meets Banksy. Thierry's life takes a crazy turn when, on Banksy's advice, he decides to become an artist himself.

I thought this film was rather amazing from a couple of standpoints. One was the thread of seeing these street artists and some of their work, getting a bit of the history of street art morphing into actual art shows. The larger story - Thierry's transformation - is just something to behold. Especially if, like me, you've never followed any of this history before.  And then to hear how the street artists comment about Thierry's transformation and what it means, if it means anything, is especially interesting.

Good watch if you're stuck for what to watch and aren't in any particular genre mood, Great story from start to finish. Put together really well with some really good footage for art history - capturing the street artists doing what the do and why.  Plus an interesting commentary on the commodification of street art and the folks involved in that process.

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