As an ever-increasing number of street art movies and documentaries appear online, it is, if not impossible, extremely time-consuming to watch them all. Despite the divergent focuses and genres of each film, ranging from covering street art in one city to those which cover it on a more global scale, following is our list of the ten most fascinating, both documentary and fictional movies that represent the global street art movement and its impact on urban culture.
So, if you have some spare time, and want to see something highly entertaining, grab some drinks and a bucket of popcorn, lay back and enjoy the ten best street art movies you need to watch.
Exit Through the Gift Shop: A Banksy film is a documentary directed by the British graffiti artist Banksy. It tells the incredible, and allegedly true story (although, one can never be sure when it comes to Banksy) of Thierry Guetta, an eccentric French immigrant, film-maker and shopkeeper from Los Angeles, and his obsession with street art, as he tries to locate and befriend Banksy. Eventually, as Banksy turns his camera on Mr. Guetta, he morphs into a street artist himself, inventing an alter ego called Mr. Brainwash, and becomes an overnight sensation. The film contains exclusive footage of many of the world's infamous graffiti artists at work and in interviews.
Style Wars is an acclaimed 1983 documentary on hip-hop culture, with an emphasis on graffiti and breakdancing, directed by Tony Silver and originally aired on PBS. It is regarded as the indispensable document of New York street culture and graffiti art of the early 1980's, a fundamental time of its development and before it became part of the mainstream pop culture and the phenomenon that had taken over the world. Style Wars follows several street artists struggling to express themselves through their art, as they physically transform urban landscape of New York, turning its subway system into their public playground and spectacular artistic canvases.
Dirty Hands: The Art and Crimes of David Choe is a 2008 documentary film about the Los Angeles painter and graffiti artist David Choe, directed by Harry Kim, who filmed the most dramatic and intimate moments of Choe's colorful artistic life over the course of seven years. The film offers an unguarded and intense profile of an outlaw artist , who rose from a notorious street artist to a prolific painter, and who lives his life as unrestrained as humanly possible. As it follows David Choe on his artistic and spiritual journey, Dirty Hands chronicles his manic highs of commercial success, self-destructive lows of Japanese jail sentences and bouts of self-doubt and depression.
Directed by the acclaimed film-maker Doug Pray, feature-length documentary Infamy follows a day in the life of six of America's most prolific graffiti artists (Saber, Toomer, Jase, Claw, Earsnot and Enem), as well as Joe Connoly, aka The Graffiti Guerrilla, a graffiti buffer who has made graffiti removal his day job and drives around town in search of graffiti to paint over. It is an intense, humorous and colorful journey into their dangerous lives and graffiti obsessed minds, revealing artist's complicated psychology and the reasons why they are so willing to risk everything to spray paint their cities with tags, throw-ups and full-color murals.
Bomb the System is a 2002 drama film written and directed by Adam Bhala Lough, and starring Mark Webber. Started as a class project at NYU's film school and shot entirely on the streets of New York, the movie revolves around a group of graffiti artists who decide to make a mark on the city. Painting an unforgettable picture of a lifestyle that is so often misunderstood, Bomb the System effectively explores many of the underlying themes driving graffiti culture. Several well-known graffiti artists participated in the making of this provocative and visually stunning film, including Lee Quinones, Cope2 and Chino BYI.
Piece by Piece is a 2006 documentary film which documents San Francisco graffiti scene, from the early 1980's to 2004, directed by Nic Hill and narrated by San Francisco graffiti artist Senor One, aka Renos. Featuring interviews with numerous graffiti artists, and representing an excellent and thorough overview of San Francisco's over two-decades-long history of graffiti art movement, this groundbreaking film displays a deep and entertaining understanding of the city, as both a historical site and a nexus for contemporary change. Regarded as one of the most candid and accurate stories told about graffiti culture, Piece by Piece is an in-depth and skillfully balanced document of its birth and development in Northern California.
Gold Along the Banks is an independent documentary film, directed by Nikola Zecevic, which tells a story of a new generation of urban artists from Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. It deals with the lives, ambitions and visions of this city's street and graffiti artists, musicians, designers, photographers and other urban creative people who successfully create their art, without financial aid of any kind. Through interviews, interesting comments and great photography, Gold Along the Banks gives a raw and unpolished look at the vibrant and diverse contemporary creative scene of Belgrade.
This is Berlin not New York is a documentary film directed by Ethan H Minsker, which examines western contemporary art and the tensions between commercialism and creativity, while documenting a journey of a group of young and talented New York based underground artists who traveled to Berlin in 2007 to meet and spend ten days with their German counterparts. In addition to staging an exhibition, street displays, and giving an artful makeover to an abandoned building, while collaborating on original projects that push conventional boundaries, together they explore artistic ideas and concepts. Result is a highly entertaining film which provides an inspiring look at urban art of both cities.
The Radiant Child is a 2010, feature length documentary film about Jean-Michel Basquiat, based on the footage of a rare interview, which director, and Basquiat's friend, Tamra Davis took when they met in 1985, and interviews with people close to the artist, including Julian Schnabel, Bruno Bischofbrger and Thurston Moore, among many others. With compassion and psychological insight, superbly capturing a time, place and culture, The Radiant Child documents the rise and fall of this charismatic young artist, celebrates his brash genius and details the mysteries that surround his brilliant life, which was cut short. It is a respectfully vivid, accurate, and entertaining homage to a painter who led a radical life, and left an ambitious body of work behind.
Wild Style is a 1983 film, produced by Charlie Ahearn, regarded as the first hip-hop motion picture. The main protagonist Zoro, the city's hottest and most elusive graffiti writer, is played by the New York graffiti artist George "Lee" Quinones. The film is a hybrid of a narrative musical and documentary, having the real and prominent hip-hop pioneers play themselves in a loosely scripted story shot entirely on location in The South Bronx and MTA Subway yards. With scenes depicting activities such as graffiti, B-boying and turntablism, Wild Style demonstrates the interconnections between music, dance, and graffiti art in the development of hip hop culture during its cultural turning point in the 1980's.
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