I recently watched "Exit Through The Gift Shop" and thought it was absolutely excellent. After the movie was over, my friend told me that a lot of people think that Bansky invented the character of Mr. Brainwash. Apparently there is a lot of supporting evidence for this claim, and a lot of counter-evidence; however, I have been unable to find a complete resource, merely patchwork commentary and criticism in a variety of locations. Can anyone summarize all the arguments and claims for each side of the debate?
I firmly believe that Thierry Guetta is not a real person but was invented for the film. Some evidence:
- he reportedly made lots of money from his clothing business, but in the brief clip of his store, it looks like a couple of racks of clothes in some crappy room
- he reportedly has a wife and kids, but then leaves them to spend "years" filming his documentary
- all 'Thierry Guetta' or 'Mr Brainwash' material found via Google seems manufactured, not authentic. For example, mrbrainwash.com seems real at first glance, but try to buy something... you can't!
- Bansky delights in trickery
- the creation of the Guetta character would be an ideal way to spice up what is otherwise just a documentary about Banksy and his fellow street artists
Wikipedia's entry has a nice summary on the speculations:
The film received overwhelmingly positive reviews, holding 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, and was nominated for Best Documentary in the 2011 Academy Awards. One consistent theme in the reviews was the authenticity of the film: Was the film just an elaborate ruse on Banksy's part, or did Guetta really evolve into Mr. Brainwash overnight? The Boston Globe movie reviewer Ty Burr found it to be quite entertaining and awarded it four stars. He dismissed the notion of the film being a "put on" saying "I’m not buying it; for one thing, this story’s too good, too weirdly rich, to be made up. For another, the movie’s gently amused scorn lands on everyone." Roger Ebert gave it 3.5 stars out of 4, starting his review saying that "The widespread speculation that Exit Through the Gift Shop is a hoax only adds to its fascination." However, in an interview with SuicideGirls, filmmakers Jaimie D'Cruz and Chris King denied that it was a hoax, and expressed their growing frustration with the speculation that it was: "For a while we all thought that was quite funny, but it went on for so long. It was a bit disappointing when it became basically accepted as fact, that it was all just a silly hoax ... I felt it was a shame that the whole thing was going to be dismissed like that really - because we knew it was true."
The New York Times movie reviewer Jeannette Catsoulis wrote that the film could be a new subgenre, a "prankumentary".
New York Film Critics Online bestowed its Best Documentary Award on the film in 2010. French journalist Marjolaine Gout gave it 4 stars out of 5, linking Mr. Brainwash and Jeff Koons and criticizing Thierry Guetta's art as toilet papering.