The globe-trotting Banksy, whose true identity is a mystery but whose work can be seen on city walls around the world, will be screening “Exit Through the Gift Shop” out of competition at the 60th Berlin Film Festival.
“He’ll be there but no one will see him. No one has ever seen him,” Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick told reporters ahead of the event.
A festival spokeswoman confirmed Banksy was due in Berlin – regarded as Europe’s graffiti capital – but would not attend the press conference for the film and would only present a short video statement before its screening.
The renegade painter remains a mere apparition in the documentary too, appearing only with his face and voice distorted.
Dubbed “the world’s first street art disaster movie,” the picture diverts its focus from him, concentrating instead on French videographer Thierry Guetta and his insider look at underground artist’s at work.
Banksy, whose work has surfaced in the West Bank and post-Katrina New Orleans and now sells for tens of thousands of euros at auction, calls the picture “a film about a man who tried to make a film about me.”
It is also a biting commentary on the commercialisation of the art world, showing how the either mad or genius Guetta – the jury is still out – becomes an overnight media-driven sensation in Los Angeles.
The movie had small screenings at last month’s Sundance Film Festival in Utah. Berlin will mark its introduction to a big international audience and the early buzz was glowing.
Industry bible Variety said it was a “raucously entertaining post-modern survey of guerilla street art that appears to be one thing – a chronicle of the scene centred on its most enigmatic figure: Banksy.”
The Hollywood Reporter called it “a hybrid documentary so implausible it needs to be seen to be appreciated.”
Banksy’s hide-and-seek act comes after director Roman Polanski was forced to miss the premier of his new thriller “The Ghost Writer” at the Berlinale, where it is in competition.
The crew and cast, including Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor, presented the film Friday without Polanski, who is under house arrest in Switzerland on a US warrant for having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.
The Berlin Film Festival runs until February 21.