“DocoBANKSY”: This unusual documentary features interviews with Banksy’s fans and detractors

By on March 1, 2017

Over in our Documentary section on Night Flight Plus we’ve got an unusual documentary for you to check out, docoBANKSY, which documents some of the mysteries behind the world’s most famous graffiti artist, Banksy, with revealing interviews about his art and the impact he’s made on both fans and detractors who find and live with his art.

DOCOBANKSY1

No single living artist has created as many myths, rumors and legends as Banksy, who is quite possibly the most famous, or infamous, artist alive.

He’s certainly one of those most controversial, and his work — an effortless blend of political and social commentaries — has also offended many too, sparking outrage and admiration in equal measure.

DOCOBANKSY6

docoBANKSY focuses on some of these contradictions, revealing — in opposing soundbites — how people have varying or differing opinions about some of his street art graffito, which many believe is simply vandalism.

Like a few of his contemporaries, including Nick Walker and Inkie in Bristol, and Blek le Rat and Levalet in Paris, Banksy mainly uses figurative symbolism in his “guerrilla”-style art in humorous and thought-provoking ways to protest or satirize what’s going on in the world in ways that are completely original and new.

This documentary explores the highly active art collector’s world and how the celebrity factor shockingly influences value.

DOCOBANKSY5

His work — much of it satirical street art laced with dark humor — has appeared on streets, walls and bridges in cities throughout the world, in London, Brighton, Bristol in England; in New York and Los Angeles in the U.S., and even in Gaza, on the West Bank barrier separating Israelis and Palestinians, which we told you about here.

Banksy has somehow managed to elude fame, press, and even his true identity.

DOCOBANKSY13

Banksy (source: Banksy’s own website)

In his hometown of Bristol — England’s sixth and the United Kingdom’s eighth most populous city — almost everyone seems to have a Banksy story, and many people claim to have met him, or they know someone who has met him, dined with him, and even gotten drunk with the man, but no one can be completely certain if the man they know as “Banksy” was actually the mysterious artist.

docoBANKSY uses this as its starting point.

The hour-long documentary features interviews with quite a lot of people who have had some close experience with Banksy or his work, or at least seem to have an informed opinion about all things Banksy, including: American guerrilla poster artist Robbie Conal; Kate Brindley, who at the time was the director of the Bristol City Museum; Acoris Andipa, director of the Andipa Gallery in London; Simon Hattenstone of The Guardian UK, who is still one of the few journalists to talk to the reclusive artist Banksy; and Ivan Massow, former head of the ICA and the director of Banksy’s Coming for Dinner, among many others.

Ever since Banksy made his name with his trademark stencil-style guerrilla art in public spaces, his works have sold for hundreds of thousands of pounds.

DOCOBANKSY9

Speaking of pounds, when docoBANKSY was first released, it was described as being a “a rogue Banksy documentary” that had been “floating around the internet, being publicized by fakes of Banksy’s fake Diana £10 notes.”

DOCOBANKSY10

Banky’s faked-up Diana £10 note

“The latest rumor,” we were told at the time, “is that Banksy needed to fake the money after losing all his fortune to a scam involving setting up a street art project in the Middle East.”

Banksy may have actually first pressed up his fake Diana tenner back in 2004.

DOCOBANKSY14

One of the more curious things about docoBANKSY is how the film is presented as being a “found” work, and originally content — collated from work dated between 2009 and 2011 — which was originally found on a DVD and then redistributed by the filmmaker.

docoBANKSY was directed, or at least certainly assembled, by Dominic Wade, a longtime editor and cameraman who has had more than ten years experience working in the advertising world.

DOCOBANKSY12

Dominic Wade

Wade — on his own website — admits to being “fascinated by people that have pushed or redefined artistic and cultural boundaries. These subjects have informed and guided his work since the beginning.”

As it says there, two of his films, Modern English and 24 Hours In London, have been accepted into the BFI National Film Archive.

docoBANKSY was first publicly shown at the Portobello film festival in 2012, although a five-minute promo version was first screened at the Cambridge and Rushes shorts film festivals in the summer of 2009 (London’s Time Out magazine gave the promo version a positive review, and London’s Metro described docoBANKSY as that year’s “hottest free ticket!”).

DOCOBANKSY11

docoBANKSY has also been featured in Marc Leverton’s book Banksy Myths & Legends: A Collection of the Unbelievable and the Incredible.

DOCOBANKSY4

Here’s what it says on the back of the official docoBANKSY DVD release, which describes pretty much what this film is all about, saying it much better than we could:

If you ask “Who is Banksy?” then you’re asking the wrong question.

The identity of the Bristolian art-prankster is so far away from being the point anymore that it’s likely to elicit nothing more than an eye-roll from those in the know.

The film-maker behind docoBANKSY has spent the last three years carefully avoiding the question. Instead, he’s been talking to the people that matter. He’s spoken to journalists and writers. He’s spoken to art critics and art dealers. He’s spoken to people that have commissioned work from him, and those whose lives have been touched by the art that has sprung up around them.

DOCOBANKSY8

Above all, he’s spoken to the people on the street. Fans, haters, drunks, loons, idiots and wise men, kids and grown-ups. Through that journey, he’s learned about the art. What it’s worth, in financial and societal terms. About its lasting impact, especially when you think that it could disappear as quickly as it’s put up. Whether it’s even art at all, or plain and simple criminal damage.

From the streets of Bristol to the caverns of London and beyond, docoBANKSY finds the truth and explores the impact that the world’s most famous graffiti artist has had on the art world, on the expression of protest and satire, and on the perception of what you can do with a spray can and a stencil.

DOCOBANKSY7

docoBANKSY has interviewed subjects with a deep understanding and close contact with the man himself. Simon Hattenstone of The Guardian, one of the few journalists to be granted a face-to-face interview. Kate Brindley, head of the Bristol City Museum, venue of one of Banksy’s most popular shows. Warren at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, home to an enduring and famous piece. They tease out the context, explore the territory, and through that come to find the beating heart of the work.

When the world becomes your canvas, there is nothing you cannot do or say. Banksy’s potential is limitless, his reach borderless. To make sense of him, we need to think and act on a much broader scale. DocoBANKSY widens the focus beyond the trite quest for the man behind the mask. It has been said that there’s a little bit of Banksy in all of us. That’s as good a place as any to start.

Watch docoBANKSY — and other unusual Documentaries — over on Night Flight Plus.

DOCOBANKSY2

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.