Movie Review: Banksy’s Exit Through The Gift Shop

After an opening montage of street artists painting up various towns and escaping from the hands of the law, the mysterious street artist known as Banksy appears on camera, cloaked in a dark hoodie. “The film is the story of what happened when this guy tried to make a documentary about me,” says Banksy, with his voice disguised. “He was actually a lot more interesting than I am, so now the film is kind of about him…” In that regard, Banksy proves to be absolutely right.

So who is this guy?

Thierry Guetta is a 44-year old French-Californian man who, despite having lived with his family in L.A. for over 20 years, speaks broken English with a thick French accent, and is subsequently the subject of the documentary film, Exit Through The Gift Shop. Thierrty is self-described as a man who is addicted to the camera, carrying a handicam nearly everywhere he goes, capturing every mundane event of his life and those around him. It is only when vacationing in France that he encounters his cousin who he discovers is actually a well known street artist with a fondness for Space Invader. After tagging along on his cousin’s adventurous tour through the streets of Paris where he positions his pieces of art, Thierry begins to enter the blossoming world of street art, meeting up over the span of several years with some very important names in the scene, including Shepard Fairey who created the famed Andre the giant image “Obey” as well as the iconic Obama poster. Thierry follows Fairey for a long time, and jumps from one artist to another, with his trusted camera in the palm of his hand. Every artist he meets is under the impression that Thierry is making a documentary about the world of street art, and they welcome him with open arms. In fact, Fairey, at one point, describes Thierry as his “accomplice.”

But here’s the thing. Thierry has never made a movie in his life, and his street art documentary doesn’t actually exist.

Simply content to store boxes upon boxes of tape that he’s recorded Thierry really has no idea what he’s doing. He has no plans, and no ambitions to speak of. He simply likes to videotape and has developed a passion for street art and filming street artists. Thierry then spends a good portion of his time on chasing the most elusive street artist in the world – Banksy. It is through his chance meeting with the man of mystery that Exit Through The Gift Shop takes a turn and focuses on Thierry himself, a man who is described by others in the film as being “retarded”, “passionate” and “kind of crazy”.

The unfolding of Thierry’s story is so absurd that it has lead some to believe that the whole documentary is a prank by Banksy himself, and that Thierry is really an actor playing a role designed by Banksy. This speculation alone makes Exit Through The Gift Shop an interesting film on its own, and whether it is real or not (I’m inclined to believe it is just because Thierry is too wild to be imagined) does not take away from the statement the film tries to make – if, that is, it actually is trying to make one. Despite the main characters, and the central one especially, the film accomplishes one promising thing: it documents the rise of street art in what is perhaps the most creative way imaginable. It highlights the borders between art and trash, between pop-culture and the gullibility of people, and maybe, perhaps, how passion can fuel even the most outrageous of life events. In fact, by the time the film ends, one realizes that the cliche of art being in the eye of the beholder rings truer than ever.

To quote Steve Lazarides, Banky’s former spokesman, who probably captured the entire story most eloquently in my opinion: “I think the joke is on… I don’t know who the joke is on, really. I don’t even know if there is a joke.”

Well put indeed.


  • Awesome movie. Would recommend for everyone.

    I wanted to pick up a stencil and head to the streets of amman after i saw it. Im sure it was the same for you nas 😛

  • i dled it some days ago but still didnt get a chance to watch it .. although everyone who has has had good things to say about it

  • it was a really inspiring film.. what caught my attention is how the hype he managed to build up was the key factor of him garnering success financially,, and how it was clearly evident that the money got to him , how his attitude changed into this big shot artist bossing people around,, i got inspired to sketch thierry
    can be seen here

  • ooooo.. looks like your next post has to address that taboo stereotypical topic we have been avoiding for the sake of variety. Jorandian-Palestinian clash! now that its going to the soccer field and all…

  • Living in Chicago for a bit of time , Chicago is not known for its street art but I lived around enough of it to know that street art has it’s ways of telling it’s own stories. After watching this movie , It gave me a whole ‘nother definition other then the story. I love this movie, it defines the structure and representation within art itself.
    Art not War.

  • @sami I saw the graffiti you were talking about a week ago and thought it was absolutely fantastic. Although my friends were telling me yest. how the ammaneh already painted over them. What a shame. But I guess that’s the case wherever you go; graffiti is illegal all over the world. I came across the artist’s blog earlier this morning on twitter. I urge everybody to check it out the artist talks about how people are misinterpreting his art by a long shot. That along with the governments reaction to the whole situation which quite frankly is SHOCKING!

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