Street artist Banksy remains enigma in film debut
Feb 14, 2010, 19:52 GMT
Berlin - British street artist Banksy kept his identity shrouded in mystery at the Berlinale film festival, ahead of Sunday's European premiere of his first film, Exit Through The Gift Shop.
The film tells the story of eccentric French documentary maker Thierry Guetta, who desperately wants to include Banksy in a film he is recording about street art. Banksy turns the camera around, making Guetta the focus of the film.
The artist, whose identity is a closely guarded secret, declined to appear at a press conference and chose instead to address the festival audiences through a recorded message.
The aim of the film was 'to start recording the global phenomenon of street art,' Banksy said in a distorted voice, his face covered by a black hood.
He hoped the film would 'get every school kid in the world picking up a spray can and having a go,' but feared it might have the opposite effect.
'I think we might have made a film that does for street art what Jaws did for water skiing,' the artist said in reference to the 1970s shark horror thriller.
The documentary feature follows those artists who cover city walls in clandestine graffiti and art installations, and includes extensive footage of Banksy at work - unrecognizable of course.
'Exit Through the Gift Shop is one of the most honest films you will ever see,' the artist said in his video address, adding that it was made without a plan or a script.
'I think it's a good film ... as long as you've got very low expectations,' Banksy concluded.
The British artist's best-known images include rats, kissing policemen and girls with balloons, spray-painted onto walls with the use of stencils. His work often conveys ironic social or political criticism.
Banksy made headline news when he spraypainted the wall separating Israel from the West Bank in 2005. The following year, he inflated a lifesize model of a Guantanamo Bay detainee at Disneyland in California. Both stunts feature in the film.
Exit Through the Gift Shop is also a commentary on the commercial hype surrounding street art - a hype which has led art collectors to pay six-figure sums for Banksy's own art.
More than 500,000 people have visited his exhibitions in Britain and the United States.
Exit Through the Gift Shop premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last month, where the artist also remained conspicuously absent from the public eye.
In Berlin, fans have been hoping for new apparitions of Banksy's iconic images, as a sign that he was actually in the German capital during the film festival.
'Banksy will be present, but of course he won't be seen,' festival director Dieter Kosslick had said ahead of the Berlinale.
(Internet: www.berlinale.de, www.banksy.co.uk)