BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Banksy apparently wasn't in the building.
The mysterious graffiti star, who's up for an Oscar for his film, "Exit Through the Gift Shop," didn't appear with his fellow documentary feature nominees during a Wednesday panel at the motion picture academy's Beverly Hills headquarters, nor did he tag the building. Jaimie D'Cruz, the film's producer, isn't sure he'll turn up for Sunday's ceremony either.
"Not as far as I know," he teased.
Banksy is likely in Los Angeles though, as evidenced by several new pieces that began appearing around town last week. The latest works are a crayon house constructed in downtown, a unique traffic sign posted in East Los Angeles and a giant water tank off the Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica tagged with the phrase "It looks a bit like an elephant."
If the elusive artist, who appeared throughout his film in shadows with his voice disguised, showed up to Wednesday's panel in Beverly Hills, he would have been treated beforehand to a reception of flowing wine, creamy risotto, flat iron steak and grilled vegetables. He also would have learned about the creative processes of his fellow Oscar nominees.
Banksy's controversial "Exit Through the Gift Shop" is up against the war chronicle "Restrepo" by Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger; financial meltdown expose "Inside Job" by Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs; environmental odyssey "Gasland" by Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic; and garbage dump art project "Waste Land" by Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley.
"We don't know what it feels like for them," said Junger of the U.S. Army soldiers he was embedded with in Afghanistan during the making of his documentary. "We don't know what it feels like to be in combat. We wanted to make a film that puts you there with them, a neutral film that the far left, far right, pro-war, anti-war, everyone can experience and engage in."
While the documentary feature nominees deal with such behemoth issues as the Afghanistan war, natural gas drilling and the financial crisis, this year's short documentary nominees hone in on compelling people, such as post-traumatic stress disorder sufferer Robynn Murray, terrorist attack victim Ashraf Daas and a 12-year-old Eritrean refugee named Johannes.
The short contenders are terrorist tale "Killing in the Name" by Jed Rothstein; Murray profile "Poster Girl" by Sara Nesson and Mitchell W. Block; refugee account "Strangers No More" by Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon; relocation saga "Sun Come Up" by Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger; and environmental epic "The Warriors of Qiugang" by Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon.
"I'm really blown away by the reach of documentary films right now," said Lennon. "From a point of view of competition, it's really intimidating, but looking at the whole field, it's really exhilarating."
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