My Own Personal Film Festival

As I am in the process of building a project to shoot a documentary, I have been watching as many films as I can get my hands on and have the time to watch. There are a few nominated for the Oscars. I got to watch 3 this weekend, but the best by far is Exit Through the Gift Shop. Being that I am an artist who has lived outside of all the contemporary movements, I found the documentation of the Street Art Movement fascinating. But the bigger question the film poses is what is art in today’s world and how much hype is involved in creating perceived value for art.

The filmmaker Thierry Guetta, who is a bit off the charts mentally, is an obsessive videographer who stumbled upon a movement through a chance meeting with a cousin in France. The cousin turned out to be an artist who was known by the tag “Invader.” His art involved creating small mosaics which depicted different characters from the 8 bit video game Space Invaders. He would place these small tiles (about 9″ x 12″) at random locations in and around Paris. Thierry began video taping his cousin in action. But then he became hungry to get more of this on tape so he began follow other artists. Most notable was Shepard Farley who gained fame through his famous image of Obama-Change poster.

As Thierry began to accrue a lot of film time of many of the artists in this burgeoning movement, there was one artist who still eluded him. Bansky. This artist became notorious for placing his own artworks in museums and galleries alongside of known masterpieces. It was a boon for Thierry to actually be given permission to film this highly secretive artist. As the film progresses, the film becomes more about Bansky. One of the most powerful moments in the film is when Bansky created an inflatable Guantanimo Prison doll and placed it near a ride in Disney World. Thierry ends up getting taken into custody and interrogated for 4 hours. You get the sense as the filmmaker is telling his story of the dark side of Disney. Something that as a student of animation I have always been aware of. It is no surprise that brand Mickey Mouse has totalitarian side.

Bansky began to feel that Thierry was incapable of putting together a coherent film (based on his first effort) So Bansky tells the Frenchman to go make art, while he takes the footage to redit into the film we now see. Ultimately, the videographer begins to believe that he himself is an artist and soon embarks on creating his own show. This part of the film makes one question “what is art?” The man has no experience as an artist, but is able to create such a hype, and is so obsessed in his approach, that his show turns into a financial success, despite the fact that the work is highly questionable. It is a bit disheartening, although it is also a reminder of what kind of culture we live in. I highly recommend this film, even if it did not get the nod from Oscar.

The other nominee that I watched was Restropo. The film covers one year in the life of an army company, dropped into a dangerous valley in Afganistan. The title refers to the camp which was named for their first comrade to die in combat. The documentary does not draw judgements, but makes one wonder what our armed forces are doing there, and what, if anything can be accomplished in Afganistan.

The last documentary I viewed may have been the best anti war statement of all. Yes Sir, No Sir! gives the historical background to the anti war movement that took place within the ranks of the military during the Vietnam War. From this standpoint, you can see that history has indeed been rewritten since the Vietnam war. With interviews with soldiers who were court-martialed for refusing to orders, or active duty. The army was known to cover up the killings because they used the death toll (body count) to justify their progress to Americans at home.It was their way of saying that we are winning the war.

An interesting note here is that one of the researchers looked into the story where soldiers claimed they were spat on and called baby killers when returning to San Francisco airport (sampled by the speech by Rambo at the end of First Blood.) There was no evidence whatsoever that such an incident ever took place. Not one soldier he could find could substantiate this story. It seemed to be a myth embellished by a propaganda machine. Subsequently, Reagan and G.W. Bush, twisted these stories to make us feel that if we did not support a war, we do not support our troops. This film is a must see, especially for Vietnam vets. It is a form of redemption for those who were involved, and who still have not recovered from what happened to them over there.

I intend to continue my quest for good documentaries. My own film project, Beyond Schooling is in the early stages of proposal writing. I have had some very positive feedback from many in the field. But there are some hard realities I will have to deal with as I move forward in trying to raise the money. If any of my readers might help in pointing me in the right direction, I would be most grateful.

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One Comment on “My Own Personal Film Festival”

  1. karljahnke says:

    I agree. I thought Exit through the gift shop was genius.


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