This month, Melissa Locker Benavidez reviews two documentaries available via Netflix streaming (a.k.a. God’s gift to film-loving parents):
“Exit Through the Gift Shop” (2010; Directed by Banksy) is an entertaining and provocative look at the world of street art. Our guide is Thierry Guetta who begins his street art sojourn by tagging along with his cousin, the artist known as Invader. Through his camera and sheer will, Guetta documents the zeitgeist of the burgeoning art movement from L.A. to Paris to London, and, naturally, Brooklyn. Locals may especially enjoy seeing the artists behind the wheat pasted masterpieces that grace our streets. Through Guetta we meet the mavens of the street art scene, including Swoon, Shepherd Fairey (of Obama Hope poster fame) and, eventually, the renowned and reclusive artist Banksy. Once Guetta befriends Banksy, the film takes a hall of mirrors turn as Guetta transforms himself from documentarian to protagonist. The film is an engaging study of art and its theories that will have viewers scratching their heads over whether or not the film is another elaborate and thought-provoking prank by Banksy.
“Restrepo” (2010; Directed by Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger) is a heartbreaking and searing look at war as few outside the military know it. “Restrepo” evolved out of the directors day jobs as journalists on assignment for Vanity Fair, but they self-financed their mission to document the lives of soldiers stationed at a military outpost in Afghanistan. Unimpeded by the Public Information Department for the Army, the directors tell an honest and harsh tale of military life. The directors follow their adopted brigade on Operation Rock Avalanche, a 2007 military offensive, and during the filming Hetherington broke his leg, but the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team fared worse. It is all caught on camera giving viewers a stark and powerful look at the mechanics of war with little sentimentality. It’s easy to understand why the film won the Grand Jury Prize winner for Documentary at Sundance.