The elusive street artist brought festive cheer to a region he calls “the least Christmassy place on earth” with the Alternativity, an updated take on tradition set in the carpark of the Walled Off Hotel he unveiled earlier this year.
The bold statement set a British holiday institution under the omnipresent gaze of military watchtowers from the Israeli West Bank barrier wall. While it’s no surprise to see Banksy behind a caper of this kind, what does surprise is his co-conspirator: Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle.
An hour-long documentary reveals how the unlikely partnership came about, following the project from conception to rehearsal to packed performance. It seems Banksy nabbed the Oscar-winning director with an intriguing challenge: if you could make Britain look cool at the Olympics, surely attaining peace in the Middle East through amateur dramatics won’t be a problem.
So Boyle bravely packs his bags and heads to Bethlehem, accompanied by a film crew from BBC Two to capture the action.
Over six weeks, Boyle (and Banksy, remotely advising over the proceedings) stages the nativity play with the help of local director Riham Isaac. A cast and crew are assembled. A rockstar-worthy stage is built. Donkeys are assessed and rejected. Talented children show off their vocal and comedic chops. And against all odds, it snows in Bethlehem.
Patrick Holland, Controller of BBC Two, said: “It is brilliant for BBC Two to be working with Danny Boyle, Banksy and the creative team who together are making this alternative nativity. It promises to be a challenging and provocative exploration of a story of that speaks to young and old alike.”
In fact, the final performance is surprisingly traditional – minus the occasional mobile phone and hiphop tune – and more affecting than you might expect.
To accompany the show, Banksy debuted two new murals. One features two cherubs attempting to chisel through the separation wall, the other is a stenciled ‘Peace On Earth’ message with an suspicious caveat: “Terms and conditions apply.”
The Alternativity was a one-off, but for those who missed out on the “festive spectacular”, the BBC Two documentary can be watched above.