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Entertainment behind the scenes

Sundance surprises: Banksy and Bill @ Bing

January 25, 2010

BanksyEvery year at the Sundance film festival — and journalists can pretty much count on it — during the opening weekend an unexpected celebrity will show up in town and captivate the media’s attention. Whoever that is or (whatever he or she has done) becomes a “must-have” story. This year, the title was shared by British grafitti artist Banksy — who evidently turned up, although characteristically no one has seen him — and businessman Bill Gates.

On Thursday, the word on the snowy streets of Park City was that Banksy had tagged several buildings with his art. And in fact he — or someone — did. That’s a picture at left.

Why was he here?  A film dealing with his stealthy artistry, “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” screens on Sunday night and a little advance publicity goes a long way. That certainly has been true and to be sure, on Sunday night reporters will turn out en masse for the movie.

But we have to hand it to Bill Gates. When he showed up on Friday, he did so with a cause beyond just movies and he did show his face (we might add that he was looking pretty relaxed, laughing and joking and seeming pleased to be at Sundance. He said he’d always wanted to come). Yes, he was here promoting a film, too — “Waiting for Superman” the new Davis Guggenheim documentary about education — and you had to get him at the Bing Supper Club, obviously affiliated with Microsoft. Can’t blame him. He’s a businessman.

But more than that, Gates was promoting his belief that the U.S. educational system is in shambles and needs to change. His Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given millions to the cause, and giving’s a good thing. We had a few minutes to talk to him at the Bing and you can read about that here. We also enjoyed his sense of humor. If only we could say the same thing about Banksy. But we’ll never know because we, like a lot of others, haven’t had the chance to chat. To that end, we’re still looking.

Update:  We saw the Banksy movie Sunday night. It’s interesting. Essentially, it traces the artistic zeal of Frenchman Thierry Guetta, who lives in Los Angeles and  became obsessed with videotaping street art, which led him to Banksy. Thierry wanted to make a documentary about street art, but couldn’t finish it. In stepped Banksy to help him, and what emerges is a documentary that questions what is art and who decides its merit.

The movie is both funny challenging and, of course, Banksy never really appears. He is only in hoodie, dark silhouette, and his voice is altered. …. sorry, Sundancers. You can see his grafitti art, but you can’t see him.

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