When Banksy came guerrilla-style to the Big Apple in 2013, New Yorkers were beside themselves, embarking on city-wide scavenger hunts. Director Chris Moukarbel wasn’t there, so sifted through hours of crowd-sourced content, piecing together tweets, photos, and videos to depict what exactly happened during the ever-elusive street artists’ residency. With Banksy Does New York hitting Australian screens this week, we take five with the young filmmaker everyone’s talking about.
You’ve been credited with establishing a new directorial style with your use of user-generated footage. What first led you down that path and what are your thoughts on the style overall?
People were shocked with that approach to story telling but I don’t really understand any other way to accurately tell a story these days. If I’m making a documentary about our time it has to involve Internet footage because half my life (and most people’s) is existing online.
How did you go about crowdsourcing the imagery?
I’ll go online and look for content and start cutting it into the project. If something works, I’ll reach out to the content creator and ask to license it. Unlike traditional documentaries where you’re trying to convince somebody to use their archival footage, everybody who puts their content online, (for the most part) is looking for an audience.
Do you have any favourite stories from creating Banksy Does New York?
The whole story with the sphinx being ‘stolen’ was really kind of a curveball. We [filmed] each location for B roll and I wasn’t specifically looking for the sphinx because I didn’t think it was something we could find. This guy comes up to me and he was like, ‘I know where it is.’ We pile in his car and drive to his grandmother’s house and he opens up this old garage door and it’s there piled under all these old bicycles and boxes. The thing is worth half a million dollars but their security system was basically just hiding it under a pile of kids’ bikes. That was a real special moment because it wasn’t even something I was looking for and it turned out to become one of the most important parts of the film.
And finally, what does Banksy think of the documentary?
The official comment I got from Holly [head of Banksy’s handling service Pest Control] was that Banksy really enjoyed it. Once they realised we weren’t doing some kind of expose trying to uncover who he is and it was more about furthering the project and bringing it to a broader audience, they seemed really into it.
Banksy Does New York is in cinemas now. Watch the trailer: