Watch & Learn: Exit Through the Gift Shop

by Koka Tarini Siddhartha

He is kind of the rightful heir to Andy Warhol, in a way. Warhol made a statement by repeating famous icons until they became meaningless but, he was iconic in the way he did it. But Thierry really makes them meaningless!” — Banksy

What is Exit Through the Gift Shop about?

This documentary depicts the metamorphosis of a French immigrant, Thierry Guetta, from a proprietor of a garment store to an infamous street artist. What initially started out as Guetta’s attempt at making a film on street and graffiti artists boomeranged into this Banksy-directed, award winning and Oscar nominated documentary on the being and becoming of Guetta’s alter ego, Mr. Brainwash (MBW).

Attributing his obsessive need to videotape every minute of his life to his troubled childhood, Guetta is seen recording everybody he encounters – from his family to the biggest names in the street art industry including Invader, Shepard Fairey and Banksy, throughout this documentary.

At one point in the film, Guetta gazes intently into the camera and declares, “I’m playing chess when I don’t know how to play. Life is like a game of chess.” With his neurotic taping of street artists in the guise of making a film about them, he collects over a thousand hours of footage with the sole intention of… doing absolutely nothing!

Ultimately, this documentary is how Banksy (indisputably the most fascinating of the anonymous street artists) transforms the recorded content into a film on Thierry Guetta. It shows Guetta’s interactions and adventures with street artists at work, their altercations with the police force (most of whom regarded street art as vandalism), and his oxymoronic makeover into a street artist.

What we loved about this documentary

Absolutely everything! Not to be over-enthusiastic reviewers who unnecessarily build up a film, we kid you not, you will not feel the time pass while you watch this film. Every minute is more interesting than the previous one. The humour, the music (especially the cleverly chosen song, Tonight The Streets Are Ours, by Richard Hawley), the anecdotes, the insight into the lives of street artists, and getting to know Banksy better (a personal favourite), all make this film worth its name and fame.

Why should you watch it?

If you aren’t convinced by now that this is film is worth a watch, here are a few more reasons (to help convert our nudge into a push).

This is a one-of-a-kind experience, not just because you get to see a more personal side of street artists, but also because you get to witness the Thierry Guetta. He is called weird, mentally unstable and everything else that’d make you think he was completely berserk yet, even the best of the best artists must concede to his success. Which artist, apart from him, could have had over fifty thousand visitors and make more than a million dollars in his first solo art exhibition? While he turned Fairey and Banksy into sceptics of film-makers and even turned off Banksy from encouraging future artists, you cannot help but grin at the end of this film.

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