The controversial documentary (maybe mockumentary) Exit Through the Gift Shop is one of the most brilliant films I have seen in a while. Directed by widely discussed and debated street artist known as Banksy, this film aims to tell the story of Thierry Guetta and his absolute obsession with street art. What is fascinating is that initially it is Guetta who yearns to meet the untouchable Banksy in order to capture his street art creations on film, but it ends up turning on him as Banksy is the one who releases the film about Guetta’s introduction and immersion in the cultural movement known as street art.
With a camera glued permanently to his hand, Guetta is constantly filming everything, including all the generic and mundane rituals such as driving and flushing the toilet. The camera never stops, but what’s more is that he never looks over the footage. Once it is shot, the moment is done and he no longer desires to look at it.
He begins his street art adventure upon a chance meeting with a cousin in France known as Invader, who creates mosaic representations of characters from the video game “Space Invader.” Watching his cousin stick these pieces of art around town for the public to enjoy, a movement begins and Guetta is in the middle of it, lucky enough to have the inside track and a camera recording all the ‘illegal’ activity. It is the thrill of getting caught that drives him further and further into the vortex of this universal art movement, as he latches on to all the major street artists to capture their work in progress, filming the vandalism on public walls, benches, pavement, mailboxes, roofs, billboards, and everything else, ultimately promising them a documentary as a finished product. However, this never happens. He films and films with no actual intention of putting something together, rather he just wants to witness these creative minds in action and is increasingly influenced by their every move and clings to every syllable uttered.
It is Banksy that has the largest effect on him and the end of this film is nothing short of mind-blowing. It just goes to show that we really are brainwashed to believe things are more valuable than they really are. Banksy states that his art was never for profit, but Guetta takes all that he has learned from these artists and transforms it into a multimillion dollar endeavour. You really wonder the price of art and life once the film concludes, with the final scene resonating the most as a bulldozer takes down a wall that Guetta has spray painted with the words “Life is Beautiful.”
I recommend this film to everyone. You really are in for a visual feast and an inside look at a world that has really changed the face of modern art, for better or for worse.