“The film’s power comes from the fact it’s all 100% true.”

Posted by · 9:54 am · December 22nd, 2010

During the 12/10 top 10 podcast, when I spoke on the two documentaries that made my list this year — “Catfish” and “Exit Through the Gift Shop” — I made a point of noting that I’m taking the films at face value.  They are films that spark a natural sense of suspicion, especially in the case of the latter given that it is directed by prankster street artist Banksy, but I’m content to take them for what they claim to be (while feeling that, if fake, they are even more brilliant).

All These Wonderful Things documentary hound A.J. Schnack recently interviewed Banksy about his film.  When the question of authenticity pops up, the debuting filmmaker states explicitly that the film is “100% true,” though of course he would.  But it’s an enlightening discussion for other reasons.

For instance, Banksy says he’s very unpopular in his community at the moment for the attention paid to Mr. Brainwash, whose derivative, pointless, cookie-cutter “art work” becomes a narrative and thematic focus for the film.  There’s also his perspective on documentary filmmaking (“Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock are very punk to me,” he says.)  Great stuff.

But, of course, most will be focused on Banksy’s words on the veracity of the film, so:

Obviously the story is bizarre, that’s why I made a film about it, but I’m still shocked by the level of skepticism. I guess I have to accept that people think I’m full of shit. But I’m not clever enough to have invented Mr. Brainwash, even the most casual on-line research confirms that.

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?

And that’s really just a small sampling.  It’s an interview well worth your time so go check it out at All These Wonderful Things.

[Photo:Producers Distribution Agency]

→ 16 Comments Tags: , | Filed in: Daily

16 responses so far

  • 1 12-22-2010 at 10:26 am

    Loyal said...

    I loved Exit Through The Gift Shop.

    Unlike Catfish, whether or not Exit is 100% truthful doesn’t take away from the film. Mr. Brainwash is a fantastic invention, regardless if it’s by accident or on purpose.

  • 2 12-22-2010 at 10:56 am

    Motke said...

    Funny, for me, Exit Through The Gift Shop is not about MBW at all. It’s about the street-art sub-culture. The MBW arc is just a device serving the wider goal.

  • 3 12-22-2010 at 11:02 am

    Maxim said...

    I remember reading something to the effect that Deakins might shoot only one more film for Coens on film and that was before True Grit came out. If this switch happens, and I, for one, hope it doesn’t happen, it would probably be due to the economic, rather then artistic and convenience related reasons (though I do begin to wonder if the latter might be a factor, after all).

    It’s kind of sad to think that a decade or two from now we’ll have virtually no Film film.

  • 4 12-22-2010 at 11:03 am

    Maxim said...

    Ended up posting this in the wrong article. Sorry about that and feel free to delete what I said above.

  • 5 12-22-2010 at 11:23 am

    the other mike said...

    havent seen the film but i will be honest, i find banksy very pretentious,

  • 6 12-22-2010 at 11:53 am

    Keil Shults said...

    All I want to know is if Mr. Brainwash really had a show, and, if so, did he really make a lot of money from it? Everything else doesn’t seem to matter much one way or the other. I will say that I felt the film seemed increasingly manipulated as it progressed. Perhaps the idea that it might be a hoax skewed my perceptions of it, but the six-month jumps, Brainwash’s editing of his footage, Banksy’s reactions to said footage, and so on, seemed a bit staged. 100% true or not, it was an intriguing film that illuminated some of the more pathetic aspects of the art world. However, true or not, I could never imagine putting it that high on my Top 10 list, even in a year as weak as this one. To each his own, of course.

  • 7 12-22-2010 at 11:56 am

    Keil Shults said...

    I would have liked to learn more about why these street artists do what they do, as well as how they make a living from it.

  • 8 12-22-2010 at 12:15 pm

    Michael said...

    Most street artists don’t make a living from it. The ones pictured in the film are the exception of course. As to why they do what they do, I think you could interrogate each one and you would still not get a clear or illuminating answer.

    I thought the film was brilliant and it is definitely in my top 3 favorite films of the year. I honestly did not expect it to get shortlisted by the Academy so the fact it has made it this far makes me hopefully that some kind of divine miracle occurs and it actually gets nominated for best documentary. That would be probably the coolest nomination of the year if it happened.

  • 9 12-22-2010 at 12:17 pm

    Andrew M said...

    I’ve heard a theory that Mr. Brainwash is just a way for all the other guys (Banksy, Shepard Smith, Space Invader, etc.) to “sell out” and make money. Interesting idea. Either way, it’s a great movie and I don’t think it was faked at all. I’ve heard people from L.A. say they saw Mr. Brainwash stuff pop up around the city a few years ago.

  • 10 12-22-2010 at 12:17 pm

    red_wine said...

    Exit Through The Gift Shop is a magnificent film but I really find it hard to believe that it is all true. If it is, I’ll just tip my hat to reality and life that such a story happened at all.

  • 11 12-22-2010 at 12:41 pm

    Keil Shults said...

    I wouldn’t imagine most of them make a living from it either. But many seem to be devoting much of their time and energy into it. It would be interesting to see if they come from money, or what else they do to get by financially while they create their art.

  • 12 12-22-2010 at 12:43 pm

    Keil Shults said...

    And sure, some will argue that that’s not the point of the film, and I’m not saying that it’s the most important question I would want answered. But given that this is likely to be the most-seen documentary involving street art (for a long time, at least), they should have used the opportunity to delve a bit deeper into the whys and hows. Are we to assume that such interview footage exists, but was excised by Banksy in the editing room?

  • 13 12-22-2010 at 2:09 pm

    Mitchell said...

    And the Austin Film Critics Award for Best Picture DOESN’T go to The Social Network! Somebody out there has a pulse!!

  • 14 12-22-2010 at 2:40 pm

    Phil said...

    I honestly do not understand where skepticism of EXIT comes from. If Banksy is a ‘prankster’, the pranks are not on the audience but on what he sees as the established authority.

  • 15 12-22-2010 at 9:13 pm

    half empty said...

    I finally caught up with Exit last week, and I was surprised by how little I doubted its veracity. If the director was anyone but Banksy, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. There might be the typical doc sniping about liberties taken and all that, but nobody would be calling it a hoax.

    Catfish is a different beast, since thematically it deals much more heavily with reality as a concept. I can see how people doubt it. Personally, I think it’s mostly true, but it seemed to me like Niv and the directors might have kept themselves in a state of willful ignorance. Maybe they didn’t know what was actually going on, but they intentionally kept themselves in the dark for awhile because they had a hunch the impact would be greater if they played along. Something like that.

  • 16 12-22-2010 at 9:16 pm

    half empty said...

    Love them both, by the way, and agree with Kris that I would only like them more if they’re disproved. Catfish especially, as I think some of its flaws would actually make it more interesting if the whole thing was staged.