Exit Through the Gift Shop  

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Exit Through the Gift Shop: A Banksy Film is a film directed by Banksy, that tells the story of Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant in Los Angeles, and his obsession with street art. The film charts Guetta's constant documenting of his every waking moment on film, from a chance encounter with his cousin, the artist Invader, to his introduction to a host of street artists with a focus on Shepard Fairey and Banksy, whose anonymity is preserved by obscuring his face and altering his voice, to Guetta's eventual fame as a street artist himself. The film premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival on 24 January, 2010.


Thierry Guetta is a French immigrant living in Los Angeles, making a comfortable living with his vintage clothing shop. He also has a strange obsession with carrying a camera everywhere he goes, constantly filming his surroundings. On a holiday in France, he discovers his cousin is Invader, an internationally known street artist. Thierry finds this fascinating, and accompanies Invader and his friends, including the artists Monsieur André and Zevs on their nocturnal adventures, documenting their activities. A few months later, Invader visits Thierry in LA, and arranges a meeting with Shepard Fairey. Thierry continues filming Fairey's activities even after Invader has returned home to France. While Fairey is confused by Thierry's enthusiasm, Thierry states that he wishes to make a complete documentary about street art, and the two cross the nation, shooting other artists at work, including Seizer, Neck Face, Sweet Toof, Cyclops, Ron English, Dotmasters, Swoon, Azil, Borf and Buffmonster. What Guetta fails to tell Fairey is that he has no plan to compile his footage into an actual film, and indeed never looks at his footage.

Guetta continues to hear more about Banksy – a prominent and particularly secretive artist. His attempts to contact Banksy meet with failure, until one day Banksy visits LA without his usual accomplice, who is refused entry to the US. Stuck in LA without a guide, Banksy contacts Fairey, who calls Guetta. Guetta becomes Banksy's guide in LA, later following him back to England, winning the privilege to film Banksy on his home turf – a feat that confuses Banksy's crew. Banksy, however, sees the opportunity to document street art, which he recognizes as having a "short life span", and after Guetta aids him in recording both production, deployment and crowd reactions to his "Murdered Phone-box" piece, asks him to film the preparations for his "Barely Legal" show. The two become friends, as Guetta provides Banksy with some relief from his anonymity. Returning to LA, Guetta becomes bored, and eventually ends up producing his own stickers and decals and putting them up in the city.

Banksy's show is being prepared in Skid Row, Los Angeles, and while in LA, Banksy has the idea of deploying a Guantanamo Bay detainee doll in Disneyland. He visits the location and places the doll while Guetta films. A short while later, however, the rides stop, and the park's security catch Guetta, who is taken to an interrogation room, while Banksy switches clothes and blends into the crowd. During interrogation, Guetta refuses to admit any wrongdoing, and when allowed a phone call, covertly alerts Banksy to his situation. When confronted by security personnel, he destroys the evidence in his stills camera, but stashes the videotape in his sock and is eventually let go, much to the amazement of Banksy who then says he trusts him implicitly because of the incident.

A few days later, "Barely Legal" opens, and becomes an overnight mainstream success. Street art prices begin to rocket in auction houses. Banksy is both surprised and disillusioned by the sudden hype surrounding street art, and urges Guetta to finish his supposed documentary. Guetta begins to edit together the several thousand hours of footage, and produces a film titled Life Remote Control. The result is 90 minutes of distorted fast cutting about seemingly random themes. Banksy questions Guetta's ability as a filmmaker, deeming his product "unwatchable", but realizes the street art footage itself is valuable. Banksy decides to have a shot at producing a film himself. To make sure that Guetta remains occupied, Banksy suggests he make his own art show.

Guetta happily accepts the assignment, adopting the name "Mr. Brainwash", putting up street art in the city and six months later, re-mortgaging his business to afford renting copious equipment and a complete production team to create pieces of art under his supervision. He rents a former CBS studio to prepare his first show, "Life Is Beautiful", and scales up his production to something much larger than Banksy suggested, but with little focus. When Guetta breaks his foot after falling off a ladder, Banksy realises that the show may well become a trainwreck, and sends a few professionals to help Guetta out. While the producers take care of the practical side of the show, Guetta spends his time on more publicity, asking support from both Fairey and Banksy, eventually taping up huge billboards with their quotes, and ultimately ending up on the cover of L. A. Weekly. Preparation is seriously behind schedule, and Guetta's production team insists that he must make decisions — yet Guetta spends his time hyping up and marketing his work for tens of thousands of dollars. Eight hours before the opening, paintings are still missing from the walls, and since Guetta is busy giving interviews, the eventual layout of the show is decided by the crew itself.

Despite all this, however, the show becomes a raging success with the crowd, and after the first week of the show, Guetta sells almost a million dollars worth of art, with his pieces showing in galleries all around the world, to the utter confusion of both Fairey and Banksy. In an ending montage, Guetta insists that time will tell whether he is a real artist or not.

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