Exit Through the Gift Shop 
It’s more than a decade since this film was released, but debate still rages over its authenticity. Is it the real depiction of a French immigrant striving to make an impact on the street art scene in Los Angeles, or is all part of a bigger performance project by Banksy?

Thierry Guetta also known as Mr. Brainwash, is an underground street art fan who was introduced to the thriving scene by his cousin. Close friend, or perhaps associate, Banksy is credited as the man who suggests Guetta become an artist himself, but his subsequent stylistic choices have lead many to believe that the entire concept is another elaborate prank by the British man of mystery. 

The concept of this film is based around the idea that Guetta has filmed all this content we see and that Banksy has decided to edit it all together. If you can accept that then taking this work at face value is easily done, the street art scene certainly does lend itself to creative thinkers who would operate in this manner. The question of authenticity, however, becomes more pressing when you are asked to buy into the ending and the set-up, both of which conveniently bookend the film a little too conveniently. Sure, there is a chance that Banksy struck gold and was woven into a narrative quite by accident, but can we really ignore some of the coincidences here?

What you do get is an exhilarating glimpse into a world that is visible to most of us, even if it is often overlooked. Street Art as a discipline clearly involves some inherent talent, but its the fleeting nature of it all that Exit Through the Gift Shop highlights. Success and failure operate in the margins, and surviving is part of the game.  

Exit Through the Gift Shop is a documentary with a difference. For starters, it might not be a documentary at all, but even if it is, it plays with the form of the medium and delivers an international film that continues to pose questions of its audience.  

 Cassam Looch 

 

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