I’m confused by the nomination of “Exit Through the Gift Shop” for best documentary.

It’s not because it doesn’t deserve praise, but rather that I’m not sure it’s a documentary.

When I hear “documentary,” I think of something that is basically factual and presented in a way that tries to persuade the audience of a certain point of view. It documents reality the way the director sees it.

Count me among those who think “Exit Through the Gift Shop” is more fiction than fact.

The film ostensibly sets out to document the work of graffiti artists, including the most elusive of the batch, a man named Banksy, who is a mix of pop-culture critic, political activist and performance artist. But the original film, shot by a French immigrant named Thierry Guetta, is so bad that Banksy takes over the project and suggests that Guetta concentrate on becoming an artist. Guetta obediently does just that, adopting the name Mr. Brainwash and selling his art in a huge one-man show that ends up being a big part of the film.

Mr. Brainwash’s success is only one of the odd things about this documentary. Banksy’s face is never shown, his voice is altered and his public announcements are handled by an official spokesman. His graffiti and wall paintings are seen around the world, but there’s no indication of where he gets the money, assets and time to do everything credited to him. Mr. Brainwash is shown with a crew that helps him pull together the art for his show; could Banksy be a collective, not a single person, as well?

In fact, Mr. Brainwash is such an unlikely artist that some viewers suspect he is really a stand-in for Banksy.

While doing some Internet research on Banksy, I saw two modern-day, easily manipulated documents about his existence and exploits: a website and a Wikipedia entry. I also found several blogs talking about his “prankumentary” and enjoying the whole concept. They believe the artist took his scam skills to another level.

The film raises the question “What is art?” and seems to say it is anything you can get people to buy. As a documentary it appears to ask “What is truth?” and answers that it is anything you can get people to believe.

While “Exit Through the Gift Shop” is a very entertaining film, I’m curious to see whether the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences goes along with the joke and gives it an Oscar.

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