As things heat up for the awards season, filmmakers are out there spreading the good word on their films in contention. One filmmaker has been relatively quiet, because he’s completely unknown, the street artist Banksy. Director of the Oscar-shortlisted documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop, Banksy has done some press interviews here and there, but has stayed true to his hidden persona. Over email recently, the elusive artist was interviewed by doc blogger AJ Schnack, and it’s a very good read:
Schnack: When I saw the film, it didn’t strike me as anything but a true documentary. Perhaps because I live in Los Angeles and I’ve seen Mr. Brainwash’s art in my neighborhood and remember his big show, but also because it’s clear that the scene where Thierry meets Shepard Fairey is at least nine years old (there’s now a big movie theater complex across the street that doesn’t exist in the footage that Thierry shot). Yet, particularly when the film was opening last spring, there seemed to be this undercurrent of suspicion, perhaps because of the press’ desire to paint you as a prankster, that the film was trying to pull one over on us. How much of that conversation have you been paying attention to and what was your take on it?
Banksy: 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?
Schnack: One of the more electrifying and sometimes terrifying moments for any filmmaker is seeing their work with an audience for the first time. Have you seen Exit with an audience and, if so, what was that experience like?
Banksy: Unfortunately I haven’t seen it with an audience. The nearest I got was going to the cinema to see Precious. They played my trailer beforehand and someone two rows in front shouted “OH MY GOD, BANKSY IS SUCH A SELL-OUT” and I shrank into my seat.