We have been seeing posters for the political documentary film “Pay 2 Play: Democracy’s High Stakes” around the streets of New York. Hard to pass by, its bold graphic style and color palette looks distinctly like Shepard Fairey’s poster art, specifically the Hope poster he did for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Directed by John Wellington Ennis, the film investigates the corruption of government that comes from money. In the Pay 2 Play system, “politicians reward their donors with even larger sums of money from the public treasury – through contracts, tax cuts, and deregulation.” Those with deepest pockets earn the biggest rewards while the rest continue to struggle financially with no end in sight.
“Pay 2 Play” looks at money’s influential role in government and power through various factors including: Citizens United vs. FEC and the Supreme Court’s decision in 2010 that corporations are allowed to spend unlimited amounts in elections; the fact that Ohio is more than just a swing state; and Monopoly vs. Anti-Monopoly observed in the political spending of billionaires The Koch Brothers. Ennis offers further insight in his historical investigation of the board game Monopoly, revealing that its creation story “not only epitomizes corporate greed and exploitation, it also reveals lessons that forecast our economic meltdown, as well as implications of public domain versus corporate copyright.”
The film enlists the aid of street art to support its mission. Not surprisingly, Shepard Fairey contributed his art to the project. Known for his political and social activism, Fairey made a second version of the Hope poster, replacing Obama with the Vendetta masked figure who symbolizes the Occupy movement. While Ennis was ruminating on the issues he was going to document, he became intrigued with the Monopoly Man spotted on the streets of Los Angeles. Curious, he pinned down its creator, street artist and activist Alec Monopoly. Based in LA, Alec started his Monopoly Man project in reaction to the corruption and greed orchestrated by Bernie Madoff. In the film, Ennis looks to Alec Monopoly and street art “as a means of social commentary and individual speech in a corporate environment, despite heavy police crackdown on graffiti and vandalism.”
The distribution of “Pay 2 Play: Democracy’s High Stakes” was made possible by a successful Kickstarter campaign. Ennis ends his video pitch with some inspiring words: “To fight the money power, we need to build people power.”
The film is currently screening in New York City until September 18 and premiers September 12 in Los Angeles and Washington DC. Visit the official website for more information.