The Netflix Files: February 8, 2011

Here at The Netflix Files, we work to find the hidden gems of Netflix’s Watch Instantly feature, the films and TV series that have gone largely unnoticed by the streaming community. If you’re into corporate espionage and/or cute canines facing mortal danger, be sure to check out last week’s post on Damages (or, perhaps, this website).

Exit Through the Gift ShopThis week we’ll be covering a film recently added to the Watch Instantly database, also a frontrunner to win Best Documentary at this year’s Academy Awards. Exit Through the Gift Shop is the first film to be directed by infamous street artist Banksy, who has delighted in spreading his graffiti-based anarchy since the early ’90s. You may remember his subversive take on The Simpsons theme that aired this past October.

The film tells the story of Thierry Guetta, a Frenchman with a video camera who sets out to capture the world of street art. Guetta is allowed the privilege of spending time with some of the very best artists — including Shepard Fairey, the RISD alum who designed both the Obama “HOPE” poster and the iconic “OBEY” stickers at Nice Slice. Eventually, he finds his way into the good graces of the elusive Banksy, who allows him an all-access pass into his world.

Then Guetta decides he wants fame for himself, and Banksy turns the cameras on him. Guetta, aka Mr. Brainwash, is now one of California’s most popular artists, having even designed the cover for a Madonna album. He is also, in Banksy’s humble opinion, destroying everything he’s ever loved about street art.

With this film, Banksy has developed not only a well-rounded depiction of contemporary street art, but also a critique of the definition of the word “art” itself. If a derivative hack like Guetta can gain fame in the eyes of spectators, what implications does this have for our culture? Is Guetta really even a hack at all, or a mad genius? Does answering this question incorrectly strip you of your capacity for individual thought?

Formulate your own opinion. Or just sit back and enjoy the highly entertaining ride. Either way, see this movie.

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