About BANKSY MOST WANTED
A film by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley
Produced by : CROSS BORDERS FILMS – SCARLETT PRODUCTION – CANAL+
Directed by : Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley
Genre : documentary
Duration : 90’ an 52’
Banksy is a household name, but behind this name hides a multitude of stories, artworks, stunts, political statements and identities, leading to one of the art world’s biggest unanswered questions- who is Banksy? Thanks to his anonymity people have been able, for more than 25 years, to claim his work, either legally or emotionally, and to fantasize about who is hiding behind this name. Through the testimonies of those who know him and have worked with him, but also of those who exploit him, hunt him down, claim him… Banksy Most Wanted draws an in-depth portrait of this masked Robin Hood. Each of these investigations reveals a facet of the artist and his political views – his commitment to environmental causes or political refugees – his links with the music scene, his entrepreneurial side. They also question our relationship to identity in our society. Do we need to know the artist’s name to appreciate the artwork?
watch the trailer
MEET THE DIRECTORS
Aurélia Rouvier is a French filmmaker specialized in cultural topics.
She holds a master degree in Art History (she presented a master thesis on the myth of the amazons) and attended The Ecole du Louvre in
She has been reporting for several cultural programs aired in France (France 5 and Arte).
In 2015, she collaborated on a documentary series which, in the form of police investigations, retraced the incredible stories of famous art’s thefts (Trésors Volés, 8 documentaries presented by Olivier Picasso, France 2).
Since 2017, she co-writes documentaries on art history duets for France 5 (Nadia and Fernand Leger, Niki de Saint-Phalle and Jean Tinguely, Arman and Yves Klein, Edgard Degas and Mary Cassatt, Alberto Giacometti and André Derain).
Banksy Most Wanted is her first feature length documentary.
Seamus Haley was born in 1980 and graduated with a degree in Film Editing in Paris in 2003.
Since then, he has been working as a
documentary editor on film such as Goldman Sachs: The Bank which rules the World directed by J. Fritel (Arte, 2013), Casablancas by H. Woroniecki released in theaters in 2016 and Hostages by M. Peyrard & D. Vercaemer (Canal+, 2019).
He is also the co-founder of Ceresa Films, a production company dedicated to creative documentaries shown and awarded internationally in festivals such as Visions du réel.
Banksy Most Wanted is his first feature length documentary.
INTERVIEW WITH THE DIRECTORS
Aurélia, how did you decide on Banksy as your documentary subject and how did the film evolve from a portrait to an art investigation?
Aurélia Rouvier: I was always interested in questions surrounding identity and how our society enforce us to “self-promote” and story tell our lives. Being a reserved person, I have never been comfortable with that, and I see the mask as a fantastic space for freedom. I love Romain Gary who has wrote books under a pseudonym to have more freedom. I’m fascinated by Nicolas Giraud, a French artist who leads several artistic careers under several names, for the same purpose. And I admire Banksy, as much for the humor and poetry of his work as for the blank canvas on which people can project.
When I spoke to Laurent (co-writer and producer of the doc) about my interest in anonymity in art and Banksy in particular, he immediately thought that he should be the single character of this project. Nobody has been as famous and yet invisible. He is THE artist for many people nowadays. Anonymity is of course in every graffiti artists’ DNA, but Banksy never gave it up for over 25 years now. What was first a necessity for him then became a choice. The choice of not playing the game of society and enforce people to focus on his work instead of focusing on him as a person.
But finally, it backfired, and people have focused on him being anonymous. New theories appear regularly, and some “investigators” spend a lot of time to unmask not a criminal, but… just an artist! And, by uncovering his identity, claim a share of his fame. Everyone tries to own a bit of Banksy.
This artistic “Cluedo” is now part of who Banksy is. It was an attractive starting point for us to study his character and his work. And to question our society – this “dictatorship of the ego”- our relationship to fame and to art. Banksy raises questions and debates in a way that goes beyond his graffiti approach. His anonymity made room for us – fans, journalists, art dealers… His art is as much in his stencils than his skill to enforce us to react.
There have been a number of documentaries
about Banksy in the recent years, were you
afraid of being redundant?
AR: We would have been redundant if we had only focused on the market and the resell of his street works. However, the question of his anonymity- or multiples identities- has not been dealt with in documentaries.
This particular angle of the film allows us to hear from a large panel of voices: from the “bad guy” who sells Banky’s street works, against everyone’s will, but with the law on his side, to journalists who want to unmask Banksy, or his closed collaborators who still keep his identity a secret, to the general public who craves his work. We wanted the viewer to be sensitive to the arguments of each party.
Through this gripping artist of our time, we wanted a film more about our society than about graffiti or contemporary art.
Thanks to Christine Coquelin and Steeve Baumann from Canal+, who gave us feedbacks throughout writing and production, we were able to give these multiple dimensions to our original subject.
Seamus, what attracted you to join this project
Seamus Haley : As a young skate-boarder I filmed my friends skating in the streets of Paris. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the street, the freedom and spontaneity that it offered as well as the wide variety of people I would encounter. When I was offered the possibility to work on this project it brought back all my youthful memories of the street, the care-free spirit and insolence of skate-boarding in the city in the nineties plus a strong political discourse. The angle of anonymity as proposed by Aurélia and Laurent resonates very strongly for me in our ultra-individualistic society today.
You’ve met with people that want to uncover
him; did you find all the theories needed to
be credible? Is there one theory you are more
incline to believe in?
AR & SH: They are all very credible as they tell something about the artist: his roots in Bristol, his social and political commitment, the collective nature of the Bristol scene. Maybe Banksy is a friend of all the personalities named in these theories… We don’t want to say which one we are more incline to believe in, because it is not our purpose. But what seems more interesting for us is that, if one of these theories is true, it never ended the quest and the story. People still want to have another theory, journalists and art dealers still say Banksy is anonymous. We all win with him being anonymous. It is a collective consensus.
How do you explain the switch in attitude from
the art world towards Banksy and the graffiti
world in general?
AR & SH: The art world couldn’t deny his
popularity with the general public. Banksy became a phenomenon that the art world was compelled to look at, as he has generated his own market. The collective support to his work has changed our view on graffiti art. His work is easy to understand because he is dedicated to people. And thanks to his easy approach, we have understood that graffiti can bring poetry, humor, and thoughts in cities.
There is irony in the documentary, as we see
that what Banksy is standing up against is what
many of his fans still do. Were you put face to
face with your contradictions during shooting?
AR & SH: Not contradictions but indeed an irony.
In the documentary, we see that the media are part of the circus around Banksy. He plays with the press and enforces journalists to be part of his plan, following him in recluse areas where people don’t usually go. We are part of this circus too, and part of his “performance” in a way!
As we see throughout the documentary,
Banksy’s anonymity seems key to his success.
Do you believe his art won’t have such a strong
impact if/when we discover who he is?
AR & SH: Yes, we strongly believe his art would not have had such a strong impact had he been known and doing “promotion” as a normal artist does. Banksy said: “If you want to say something and have people listen then you have to wear a mask” and we adhere to this point of view. Now that he has become such a strong myth, discovering who he is might not change anything. In any case, it seems many people don’t want to hear who he really is and prefer the fictional theories…