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The British artist Banksy has made a name for himself by being subversive and by insisting on anonymity, which is a bit complicated now that he's nominated for an Academy Award. His documentary, "Exit Through the Gift Shop," is about street artists, including himself.
And as NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports, it appears he is conducting an Oscar campaign by way of graffiti in Los Angeles.
MANDALIT DEL BARCO: I'm standing in the alleyway behind the clothing store Urban Outfitters near UCLA, and this is where you can find a graffiti piece rumored to be by the British artist known as Banksy.
It's a stencil of a little boy pointing a machine gun. Only, instead of bullets in the cartridges, there are crayons.
Ms. SARA TOBIN: This one's called the "Crayola Shooter." He's making a commentary on children that are forced to participate in war.
DEL BARCO: What's your name?
Ms. TOBIN: Sara Tobin.
DEL BARCO: Do you think this is from Banksy?
Mr. LOGAN YUZNA: I think so, definitely. I mean, if it's not from Banksy, it's from a really good copycat artist.
Unidentified Man: Yeah, definitely.
DEL BARCO: What's your name?
Mr. YUZNA: Logan Yuzna.
DEL BARCO: Do you think this is part of his campaign to get an Oscar?
Mr. YUZNA: Yeah. Oh, yeah. This is free advertising.
DEL BARCO: It's no coincidence that Banksy's graffiti is popping up just before the Oscars, says Variety film critic and editor Peter Debruge.
Mr. PETER DEBRUGE (Film Critic, Variety): As campaign strategies go for, you know, winning an Academy Award, it's about as unconventional as it gets. I mean, first of all, it's illegal.
DEL BARCO: Debruge says most filmmakers gun for an Oscar by schmoozing at festivals or offering chances to rub elbows with Hollywood A-listers.
Mr. DEBRUGE: I'm not sure that the generally conservative older voting audience of the Academy really responds to graffiti as opposed to, you know, wine and cheese parties. But this is Banksy and this is what, you know, he's expected to do.
DEL BARCO: Bombing walls with graffiti is certainly a creative way to get around the fact that the filmmaker fiercely guards his anonymity. For years, the secretive Banksy has created sensations with his stealth street art around the world. And in his documentary, he's shown only in the shadows, hooded, and with his voice distorted.
(Soundbite of movie "Exit Through the Gift Shop")
BANKSY (Artist): The film is the story of what happened when this guy tried to make a documentary about me, but he was actually a lot more interesting than I am, so now the film is kind of about him.
DEL BARCO: I tried in vain to score an interview with Banksy, but my requests were pretty much laughed at. Even the film's main protagonist, the fame-seeking artist known as Mr. Brainwash, didn't want to talk.
Banksy's antics make the producers of this year's Academy Awards show a bit nervous. Bruce Davis is executive director of the Motion Picture Academy.
Mr. BRUCE DAVIS (Executive Director, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences): We're not absolutely certain that he's going to be in the audience. But if he is, we will make it easy for him to get there.
DEL BARCO: Do you have his picture?
Mr. DAVIS: No.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. DAVIS: All we have is the same picture everybody else has - a guy in a hoodie or a man in a full-head monkey mask.
DEL BARCO: Davis says he's convinced "Exit Through the Gift Shop" is a real documentary and not a hoax, and he made an agreement with the film's producer, Jaimie D'Cruz.
Mr. DAVIS: If that film should win, Mr. D'Cruz will go to the stage, and then we'll all wait and see what else happens. So we could have a moment on the Academy Awards.
DEL BARCO: You're anticipating possible shenanigans?
Mr. DAVIS: Well, I think with Banksy, if you're not anticipating shenanigans, you haven't been paying attention. Shenanigans are what he does.
DEL BARCO: So now, the question is if Banksy will use the Oscars as his moment to reveal his true identity to a worldwide television audience on Hollywood's biggest night.
College students and Banksy fans Juan Fernandez(ph) and Noelle Wright(ph) say that's doubtful.
Do you think he'll show his face at the Oscars?
Mr. JUAN FERNANDEZ: No, absolutely not. Probably not. Hopefully not. I don't want him to.
Ms. NOELLE WRIGHT: That's part of, like, the appeal. We don't know who he is.
Mr. FERNANDEZ: He might get arrested.
DEL BARCO: Will Banksy win an Oscar but then get handcuffed? Will he blend into the audience incognito? Or will he just stay away from the red carpet altogether? Tune in Sunday night to find out.
Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.