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Oscar®Oscar® Nominee for Best Documentary Feature
Movie Review

Exit Through the Gift Shop

MPAA Rating: R for some language.

Reviewed by: Cornelius Christian

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Comedy Documentary
1 hr. 27 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
January 24, 2010 (festival)
April 16, 2010 (limited)
DVD: December 14, 2010
Copyright, Producers Distribution Agency (PDA) click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Producers Distribution Agency (PDA) Copyright, Producers Distribution Agency (PDA) Copyright, Producers Distribution Agency (PDA) Copyright, Producers Distribution Agency (PDA) Copyright, Producers Distribution Agency (PDA) Copyright, Producers Distribution Agency (PDA) Copyright, Producers Distribution Agency (PDA)
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Producers Distribution Agency (PDA)

graffiti artist

street artist

social satire

civil disobedience


consumerism and commercialism

political statement / political art



alternative history

Featuring: André (Himself), Wendy Asher (Herself), Banksy (Himself), Shepard Fairey (Himself), Deborah Guetta (Herself), Thierry Guetta (Himself), Rhys Ifans (Narrator), Space Invader (Himself), Jay Leno (Himself), Zeus (Himself), Christina Aguilera (Herself), Victor Borrayo (Himself), Noel Gallagher (Himself), Angelina Jolie (Herself), Jude Law (Himself), Brad Pitt (Himself)
Director: Banksy
Producer: Paranoid Pictures, Holly Cushing, Holly Cushing, Jaimie D'Cruz, James Gay-Rees, James Gay-Rees, Melody Howse
Distributor: Producers Distribution Agency (PDA)

“The world’s first Street Art disaster movie.”

Let me start off by saying that this is not a movie for children or impressionable teenagers. Street art, for all its beauty, is illegal and dangerous. This film, also, contains foul language.

With those reservations aside, “Exit Through the Gift Shop” is a hilarious and intelligent film directed by the brilliant and enigmatic Banksy, a British street artist. Banksy communicates a vivid story, while simultaneously posing questions about the nature of art, its purpose, and its current exploitation by vapid commercial interests.

This “documentary” follows Thierry Guetta, a French shop owner who lives and works in Los Angeles. Guetta has the strange habit of carrying a video camera wherever he goes, and is compelled to film and document street art by his cousin, the artist Invader. The Frenchman eventually meets and befriends Banksy, who inspires Guetta to become a street artist himself. Taking the name “Mr. Brainwash,” Guetta soon becomes famous, despite having no artistic talent, whatsoever.

Banksy has a penchant for elaborate pranks, which has led some to speculate that “Exit Through the Gift Shop” is a mockumentary—whether or not this is true is unimportant. Much of Banksy’s own work involves modifying established pieces, like Mona Lisa, by making them comically ironic. In doing so, Banksy, also, communicates art’s fleeting nature—its evolution from decentralized grandeur, to state-controlled and/or market-driven pieces of sublime garbage. This, alas, is also street art’s fate: what started as anarchic passion has been subjugated to the whims of elite critics, vacuous fans and dilettante artists. Mr. Brainwash is merely an embodiment of the demise of street art as a true art form.

However, such a conclusion poses a further question, indeed the fundamental query of aesthetics: what is art? Who are we to pass judgment on Thierry Guetta for giving consumers what they want? After all, Mr. Brainwash appears to offer fulfillment and joy to his patrons—does this not vindicate him, despite his inchoate artistic meanderings? “Exit Through the Gift Shop” does not answer these philosophical problems, but nonetheless offers them up for discussion.

Christians need not despair, for the Bible rejoins: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). Ultimately, then, God’s Word is the superlative base from which to judge art, and I pray you keep this in mind as you watch this marvelous movie.

Violence: Minor / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

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