The Man Who Stole Banksy
L'Uomo che rubò Banksy
Federico Dragona, Matteo Pansana
Nexo Digital [Italy], CoolConnections [Armenia], CoolConnections [Belarus], Arti Film [Belgium], Mcf Megacom Film [Bosnia and Herzegovina], DDDream International Media [China], Mcf Megacom Film [Croatia], Njutafilms [Denmark], Atlantic Film [Finland], CoolConnections [Georgia], Synca [Japan], Mcf Megacom Film [Montenegro], Arti Film [Netherlands], Mcf Megacom Film [North Macedonia], Another World Entertainment [Norway], Njutafilms [Norway], CoolConnections [Russia], Mcf Megacom Film [Serbia], Mcf Megacom Film [Slovenia], Njutafilms [Sweden], MovieCloud [Taiwan], Movies Matter [Thailand]
festivals & awards:
In 2007 Banksy slips into Palestine to paint on the West Bank Barrier. Someone takes offence at a piece depicting an Israeli soldier checking a donkey’s ID. A local taxi driver decides to cut it off and sell it on eBay. What follows is a story of clashing cultures, art, identity, theft and black market. It is not one story, but many. Like Banksy’s art would be meaningless without its context, so the absence of it would be meaningless without an understanding of the elements that brought his artwork from Bethlehem to a Western auction house, along with the wall it was painted on.
I started following Street Art out of personal interest. In my youth years most of my friends used to cover their faces to evade CCTV cameras and jumped on walls to paint on a train, knowing they would only see their artwork in the light of day once – as the train ran by the next morning – before it was erased.
This is what always fascinated me: the fact that it’s an ephemeral kind of art, born out of poor materials and indissolubly bound to the action that originates it. It is also the only recognised artistic movement that is completely illegal and therefore destined to disappear. The original idea of the film came after a chance meeting with Walid, the body-building Palestinian taxi driver who was my very first encounter once I passed the Bethlehem check point. Walid was part of a group of people who stole a whole house wall with a Banksy painted on it and proceeded to sell it on Ebay.
This accidental meeting introduced me to a theme that soon after would develop, with varying and fascinating implications, throughout the rest of the world. As I began my research, I realised how that same issue can be interpreted in very different ways, and how its ethical justifications and explanations can vary drastically from country to country, depending on cultural and economic priorities.
What I found most interesting is the way the art establishment tries to desperately fit street art within its categories (thus making it portable, and sellable, even if it’s on four tons of concrete). As I went through the footage I gathered, sometimes I could almost feel the wheels of the mainstream grinding to a halt. Trying, and failing, to metabolise something completely foreign. Completely new. The film tackles themes of copyright (Does the artwork belong to the artist or to the public? Can the traditional laws of the market apply when no street artist has, or indeed can have without facing legal prosecution, a canon?), of safeguarding the art itself (Should it be allowed to disappear, as the artist intended? Does it mean the same if removed from its chosen context?) and of what will be left of this artistic revolution once the dust settles. “The Man Who Stole Banksy” is a multi-format documentary mixing last generation HD cameras along with some inserts shot on mini-dv cameras, recorded at the time of the removal, archive photos and gfx.
The documentary also mixes traditional Middle East sounds with modern electronic music and dub, underlining the clash between different cultures.