Last night, our own Katey Rich posted her top 10 favorite films of 2010. Ranking in at number four on that list was the Banksy documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop. A hit at last year's Sundance Film Festival, the movie tells the story of an oddball named Thierry Guetta, a man who videotapes everything in his life who quickly becomes obsessed with the idea of street art. Because of how the film is structured, however, and because of Banksy's prankish nature, it's hard to tell if the entire movie is real or if the whole thing is a joke being played on the audience. Now the secretive director is coming out to protect the veracity of his work.

*Please note, the following includes spoilers about Exit Through The Gift Shop. If you have yet to see the film, I recommend watching it on Netflix Instant Watch and then coming back here to finish. Seriously, go watch it now.*

The website All These Wonderful Things somehow managed to score an email correspondence with the famous British artist, who is saying that not only is the film real, but that he is "shocked by the level of skepticism." What most people are questioning is how real the metamorphosis of Thierry Guetta into his alter-ego, Mr. Brainwash, really is. By the end of the documentary, Guetta holds a huge art exhibit filled with tacky and derivative pieces of "art," but everyone falls in love with it, seemingly because they believe that they are supposed to. It is thought by some that Banksy is the puppet master behind Brainwash, but he insists that that is simply not the case.
Ordinarily I wouldn’t mind if people believe me or not, but the film’s power comes from the fact it’s all 100% true. This is from the frontline, this is watching an art form self-combust in front of you. Told by the people involved. In real time. This is a very real film about what it means to ‘keep it real’.

Besides, if the movie was a carefully scripted prank you can be sure I would’ve given myself some better lines. I would’ve meticulously planned my spontaneous off-the-cuff remarks. I love that famous Jack Benny come-back to a heckler - “You wouldn’t say that if my writers were here.” But I’ve always wondered - did his writers tell him to say that?


What's truly funny about the whole situation is that it doesn't really matter if the film is an elaborate ruse or not: the results stand up either way. If real, the film is a story about an incredibly strange character that ends up selling out everything and everyone he spent years getting close to. If fake, it's an extraordinary social experiment about the effects of hype and persuasion. All in all it's simply brilliant filmmaking. I actually recommend heading over to All These Wonderful Things to read the rest of the interview, and, if you ignored my message above, please do yourself a favor and go see the movie. You won't regret it.

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