Whatever else I think about these self-reflexive mockumentary pranks like Casey Affleck’s I’m Still Here and now, inappropriately nominated for an Academy Award for best Documentary Film, Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop, I have to admit they reflect their times in ways that real documentaries can’t.
How can I not admire filmmakers who create the reality they’re documenting? Banksy’s film goes steps farther by manufacturing the target demographic, as well. Pretty slick.
Upon hearing initially about the “political” street artist’s film, I tweeted something along these lines: If street artist Banksy really walked the walk he’d release his film for free under a Creative Commons license like Sita Sings the Blues.
I said that because I hadn’t seen it. Now that I’ve seen it and get the joke, I’m glad to confront its politics: Few films could be farther from the generosity and artistry of Nina Paley’s film.
I’ve never trusted the sincerity of Banksy’s anonymous persona or the literal sincerity of his “politics.” I thought his painting of the Gaza wall was glib self-promotion. Now I have my doubts that a real person called “Banksy” even exists.
Regardless, even if he did, I wouldn’t believe a word he said.
Exit Through the Gift Shop will probably win its Award, though, if my judgment of the American cultural milieu holds true.
As an antidote, watch Ceský sen. It’s just as mischievous and honestly political. I can’t think of another film in which young artists wrestled with their generation’s need for irony. You won’t find that sort of self-awareness in Banksy’s film.
P.S. I’ve always found smug the art of Shepard Fairey so he certainly belongs in this film.