Late last year I went to the Rooftop Cinema in Melbourne (an awesome Christmas present). I’d always wanted to go there and it didn’t disappoint. The selection of movies was fantastic and it was initially hard to choose a film (could I pass up the Goonies?) until I saw they were screening ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’.
I had been dying to see this Banksy documentary ever since I saw the trailer. I’d missed the initial Australian screening and had been hoping it would be screened again at ACMI or any other cinema for that matter. As soon as I saw Rooftop Cinema was showing it I snapped up the tickets. It was a long wait before the screening so when the day finally came around I was very excited. I had been nervous beforehand as it had been raining non- stop in Melbourne in typical Victorian summer fashion but when the night finally came around it was perfect weather.
On the night of the screening we arrived early and began the long trek up the multiple flights of stairs to the Rooftop Cinema. Apparently the lift isn’t available after 7pm so the long slog up the stairs on a full stomach was a pain. Once we got to the top we were treated to a fantastic view of the city skyline. The cinema itself is set on artificial grass with brightly coloured deck chairs on either side. The projectors and lights are housed in stylised bird houses on either side of the chairs which I thought was a cool feature. After grabbing a couple of drinks at the bar and hiring some blankets (this is Melbourne after all) we settled in to await the screening of the film. It wasn’t long before the sun finally set and the film began (no trailers thank god).
Exit Through the Gift Shop is a documentary by the infamous UK street artist Banksy. The film actually tells the story of a man called Thierry Guetta. Thierry Guetta films everything at every second of everyday. He is never seen without a camera. The film follows Thierry as he infiltrates the street art world via a chance encounter with his cousin (the street artist Space Invader) that leads to him working with and filming a number of street artists. Later on the film focuses on Guetta creating the persona ‘Mr Brainwash’ which culminates in him staging and art show in LA called ‘Life is Beautiful’. This show contains blatant knock offs and other poor work that the lemming like art crowd line up to buy, regardless of its unoriginality.
The film Banksy has made using the footage Guetta himself filmed (thousands of hours worth of tape, unlabelled and stored in boxes that fill his house) is a brilliant deconstruction of the street art world, mindless consumption, exposure and celebrity. It ridicules, almost tongue in cheek, Banksy’s own work that now sells for hundreds of thousands of dollars. It also looks at fame and hype and how it is possible to make anyone famous, regardless of how talentless and inept they really are (Ke$ha anyone?).
There is speculation that the film is just another prank, a new genre created by Banksy, the ‘Prankumentary’. In an interview on the blog All These Wonderful Things, Banksy emailed answers to questions regarding the veracity of the film. As Banksy writes:
“Obviously the story is bizarre, that’s why I made a film about it, but I’m still shocked by the level of skepticism. I guess I have to accept that people think I’m full of shit. But I’m not clever enough to have invented Mr. Brainwash, even the most casual on-line research confirms that.
Ordinarily I wouldn’t mind if people believe me or not, but the film’s power comes from the fact it’s all 100% true. This is from the front-line, this is watching an art form self-combust in front of you. Told by the people involved. In real time. This is a very real film about what it means to ‘keep it real’.
Besides, if the movie was a carefully scripted prank you can be sure I would’ve given myself some better lines. I would’ve meticulously planned my spontaneous off-the-cuff remarks. I love that famous Jack Benny come-back to a heckler – “You wouldn’t say that if my writers were here.” But I’ve always wondered – did his writers tell him to say that?”
Regardless of whether or not it is an elaborate prank (I don’t think it is) the film is brilliant and would have to be one of my favourite films of 2010. Get out and see it if you can and if it’s in a fantastic venue like the Rooftop Cinema even better.
Posted by Campbell