Banksy Most Wanted (2020) Film Review

Updated: Mar 11

★★★

Directed by: #SeamusHaley, #LaurentRichard, #AuréliaRouvier

Written by: #SeamusHaley, #LaurentRichard, #AuréliaRouvier

Film Review by: Emily Davison

The enigmatic street art icon Banksy is the focus of debate and discussion by various talking heads in this intriguing documentary.


Banksy Most Wanted (2020) is directed by Paris-based filmmakers, Seamus Haley, Laurent Richard and Aurélia Rouvier in their first collaboration together and combines a journalistic approach with a passion for art in an entertaining investigation into one of the biggest figures in art.


The film is presented with a combination of interviews, archive footage, news reports, photographs of Banksy’s graffiti, modern day footage and facts illustrated as text to inform viewers of different events if they are unaware of the context being examined. The documentary is consistently engaging throughout and is directed well, with a visual energy and fast pace establishing debates related to Banksy’s art and its impact on society. Although helmed by Paris-based filmmakers, the interviewee experts and journalists as well as members of the general public are mostly English and based in Bristol where Banksy was raised, with a couple of French experts pitching in their own views on the street artist.

Banksy Most Wanted UK poster

One of the most compelling and arguably strongest elements of the film is the focus on the mystery surrounding Banksy’s identity and the ethical debate on whether or not he should be revealed to risk losing the mystical feature that his art bestows on the world. It is an interesting and relevant topic for a feature length documentary to explore, as there are aspects which everyone can find fascination in, such as the political statements associated with Banksy’s art or the mystery surrounding his identity and the public’s views on these points of discussion.


There are a handful of insightful interviews which reflect on the social and political impact the icon’s illustrations have had on communities, as well as addressment of the other public opinion which suggests that people do not want to know his true identity. For example, a woman expresses her disappointment in the council moving graffiti of a boy playing in ash from a fire in a dumpster due to its political allegory associated with the area and indicates that Banksy shares his art for the enjoyment of the public and not for economic gain. This moral and ethical debate becomes an interesting point of contention on whether Banksy’s art should be valued for monetary gain or for its artistic vision alone.


The documentary offers a good summarisation of Banksy’s rise and impact as a street artist for those who may be more unfamiliar with him and want to find out more. However, the cinematic style and energetic pacing does sacrifice depth on certain issues which are raised but are never given full treatment of focus, which may be a disappointment for fans who have been following Banksy’s work for years. The film does often feel like a series of snippets and insights which only scratch the surface of what could be explored, but this does not detract from the overall intrigue and fascinating discussions the filmmakers do choose to explore.


Banksy Most Wanted offers a thoroughly entertaining and thought provoking examination of one of the world’s most enigmatic art figures and its energetic direction is enough to sustain interest throughout but may not satisfy long-term fans of the titular street artist.

#EmilyDavison


Banksy Most Wanted (2020) Film Trailer:


RELEASING ON MARCH 22