Sundance 2010: Banksy movie a phenomenon, but will it travel?
Banksy fever has gripped Sundance these last couple of days, what with the British street artist's guerrilla installations appearing around Park City and the premiere of his movie "Exit Through the Gift Shop" Sunday night at the smallish Library Theater taking on the vibe of a must-see art opening.
Fittingly for an iconic artist who doesn't appear in public, Banksy wasn't actually at the screening (invisibility, incidentally, may also be a good metaphor for the sales climate at the festival thus far), which only seemed to heighten the event feel of it all -- in other words, addition by subtraction.
No one from the film spoke before or after the film showed, but at an after-party at a local sushi restaurant, Banksy's spectral presence hovered over the event, giving it a jolt of energy. Among the biggest names there were Jared Leto, who may have been, as photos from around the Web indicate, the plus-one of the invited guest known as Jared Leto's hair.
But whether all the"Exit Through the Gift Shop" excitement will spill outside the film festival bubble is a question both filmgoers and buyers were asking, with no easy answers. Great and quirky documentaries show at Sundance every year, and many of them don't make much of a ripple in the wider world (an excellent tortured-musician documentary called "The Devil and Daniel Johnston" a bunch of years back, to take one of many examples). And the sales climate has been cool here in general.
Still, the film has plenty going for it.
Cinetic Media is representing its distribution rights -- the same Cinetic Media that last year turned a movie few had heard of coming in, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire," into a sensation both at the festival and beyond.
A number of specialty-division buyers were in Sunday night screening, and while the doc's great virtue -- its inability to be categorized -- could work against it in a marketing campaign, it's likely that a distributor will get behind the film, especially if the price is right.
Bansky has had several hundred thousand followers show up to his installations, and between that fan base and the new fans who'll come because of the film's reviews and out-of-the-box style, it's more than enough to turn "Exit Through the Gift Shop" into a tidy and appealing package for the right distributor.
Getting the director to do publicity, on the other hand, may be a little tricky.
Photo: Olivia Sprung, 5, passes a stencil by Banksy in Park City, Utah. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times.