Exit Through the Gift Shop
marks the feature-film debut of notorious street artist Banksy. The documentary's focus is French-born L.A. thrift-shop owner Thierry Guetta, whose apparent compulsion to videotape every moment of his life led him to document the phenomenon of contemporary street art. Guetta's cousin, a street artist known as Space Invader, allowed the avid cameraman to tape him as he illegally spread his artwork, and Space Invader also introduced him to other street artists, whose work Guetta captured on tape. Eventually, Guetta hooked up with Shepard Fairey
, who was best known (before he created an iconic Barack Obama
campaign poster) for his widespread stickers featuring an image of the late wrestler Andre the Giant
over the word "OBEY." Guetta soon hears about the mysterious street artist/prankster Banksy, and becomes obsessed with finding him and videotaping his exploits. Thanks to Guettta's growing reputation among street artists, the two eventually meet and form a sort of partnership. Guetta even videotapes Banksy's infamous "Gitmo" prank at Disneyland, wherein a handcuffed, hooded figure in an orange jumpsuit is placed beside one of the rides. They get along quite well until Banksy suggests that Guetta stop shooting, take the countless hours of footage he's accumulated, and start assembling them into a documentary. Banksy eventually takes over the documentary project, and inadvertently pushes Guetta's creative energy in a new direction, as Guetta becomes a kind of street artist himself, with shocking results. Exit Through the Gift Shop
, narrated by Rhys Ifans
, had its world premiere at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. While it was very well received, there was much speculation as to the documentary's veracity and the provenance of Guetta, his videotape, and his artwork. Given Banksy's reputation, that should not come as a surprise.