Thierry Guetta, a French shop keeper, used to have one passion in life: filming anything and everything. He was never caught without a camera in hand and would keep rolling no matter what. This was an aimless passion, but a passion nonetheless. A husband and father, Guetta spent all of his time filming his family, himself, people on the street… whatever crossed his path was captured on film.
What seemed as though it would be a part of his life forever with no real purpose suddenly took direction. His cousin was working on his most recent project. He was making mosaic Space Invader pieces just to place them around the city for people to see and question. This is street art. thought-provoking works of art. Some were there just because and some were there for an obvious purpose.
Thierry loved this idea and followed his cousin, Space Invader, as he made his mark. Shortly thereafter, Guetta was introduced to street artist Shepard Fairey, the likable chap behind the Obama “hope” campaign. He and Fairey became fast friends as Guetta followed him and filmed him. He loved the danger, the adventure, and the adrenaline rush of possibly being caught. Thierry took his hand-held passion to new heights in daring feats to capture the genius of Fairey from new angles.
All the while, Thierry is introduced to more street artists like Swoon, Borf, Monsieur André, Sweet Toof, and many more. This trend became a huge part of his life. An obsession, if you will. With camera in hand, he followed the tight-knit world of street art closely. He had filmed the works of so many well-known street artist, but he hadn’t gotten them all. He needed Banksy. There was one tiny little hiccup… how would he find Banksy? The unidentified graffiti artist had no phone. The only people who knew him knew they knew him, but no one else did.
In an act of divine intervention, he finds Banksy. Guetta worked day and night to win the trust of Banksy, and amazingly enough, they became friends.
From the beginning, Guetta had said that he was making a street art documentary. He decided it was time to do just that. He took his cases of tapes and put together a documentary he called Barely Legal and took it to Banksy.
It was a mess, says Exit Through the Gift Shop director Banksy. He encouraged Guetta to leave him with the tapes and go back home. He told Thierry to work on his own street art and that’s just what he did. Guetta arrived him to his family who had already spent so much time without him only to lose him again to a new passion: street art.
Under the alias Mr. Brainwash, Guetta took to street art like a duck to water. He had watched for so long and now it was his turn.
In a wicked turn of events, Guetta was injured. Under the influence of painkillers, Guetta spent all of his time trying to create his first show. The man we saw in the beginning of the film was gone. The story changed drastically from beginning to end and what a story it was. It may be legit, but it may also be a farce. One thing is for sure… this film sheds light on a world that has previously eluded the watchful eye of a camera.
This documentary is my pick for Best Documentary (Feature) for this year’s Oscar awards. Intriguing, funny, and the first film I’ve ever seen about street art. It is an unusual story and incredibly winning with lots of character. Will we meet Banksy if it wins? I almost hope we don’t. His mystery is part of his allure. I suppose only time will tell.