Tribeca Film Festival 2018 – April 18 – 29


April 22, 2018. In the college sociology classes that I teach we talk about something called an “objective reality.”  An “objective reality” is the thing that just is. How people interpret an objective reality is called the “social construction of reality.” I would be hard pressed to think of two better examples of “objective realities,” and the “social constructions of reality” put around them” than those portrayed in the documentary “The Man Who Stole Banksy.”

The film actually has two “objective realities.” The first is the large, highly controversial, wall that Israel built, which has attracted international attention. To the Israeli’s the wall represents security. To the Palestinians the wall represents repression. Entering into this debate about the meaning of the wall is the secretive and controversial artist Banksy, someone who, apparently, no one has ever seen. His identity is a mystery.

Banksy paints, on the wall, a picture of an Israeli soldier checking the passport of a donkey – the painting is an “objective reality.” What construction will people put on it? The assumption is that Banksy meant for this painting to be a criticism of Israel. However, to Palestinians, this objective reality is seen as an insult to them. In their culture being compared to a donkey is insulting.

Since this painting (the film’s second objective reality) is by Banksy, an artist whose work sells for lots of money, a plan is implemented by body builder, taxi driver, and now art entrepreneur, Walid the Beast (I’m not making this up), to cut the painting off of the wall and sell it. The film then raises a host of interesting questions: To whom does street art belong?  Does removing street art from the context in which it was painted alter its meaning? Is putting street art in posh galleries an upper class appropriation? Does this shift the conversation from art to capital? Could the proceeds from selling the painting be used to help Palestinians?

Italian director Marco Proserpio raises a host of fascinating question about art, culture, commerce and politics.  He also gives us a very colorful character in “Walid the Beast.”  For information on Tribeca Film Festival screenings visit


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