Saturday, September 6, 2014

"It's always one person"--John Ennis' smart, heartfelt, all-over-the-place doc, PAY 2 PLAY

All over the place it may be -- jumping from the famous game of Monopoly to gerrymandering, street artists, ALEC, the work of those sleazy tools of the one per cent that make up the majority of our Supreme Court, the Koch brothers, a scandal named Coingate and a couple of riveting political campaigns you won't have heard of unless you're from Ohio -- but the new documentary PAY 2 PLAY, from filmmaker John Wellington Ennis, is also full of energy and intelligence and a heartfelt and necessary message that tells us to wake up and take control of our government. As we're told upfront and then again toward the finale, "It's not about left and right but instead about insiders and outsiders," the former of which are hellbent on never letting the latter in.

The birth of Mr. Ennis' daughter (the filmmaker is shown at right) seems to have galvanized him into action, the result of which is this documentary, in which he admits that his little girl is almost sure not to have the good life that so many of us have shared up until now. He talks to some of the usual suspects, progressive variety, from Noam Chomsky (below) to Van Jones, while covering territory other docs have trod previously.

Yet, as he bounces from one topic to the next, showing us the veritable orgy of greed and the plotting of the wealthy and corporate interests to increase their holdings against the work of a single person here and there and finally the coming together of the anti-Koch and Occupy movements and how this frightened the establishment into using anti-terrorist tactics to disperse peaceful protest, his theme of what a single person can accomplish begins to take on more meaning and resonance than is usual.

His concentration on the game of Monopoly (and its newer counterpart Anti-Monopoly), along with how he substitutes the usual things we see on the Monopoly board with newer views, more appropriate to our current times, makes for some additional ironic fun.

In a little aside, we also learn about the origin of the game (above). And it is not what you've probably been told via Parker Brothers.

The film's finest sections are devoted to political campaigns in which some "unknowns" -- Paul Hackett , Subodh Chandra and Surya Yalamanchili (above) -- gets into the political fray, work hard and, by virtue of their courage and dedication, manage to go much farther than anyone expected. Not far enough, as it usually turns out, but still....

From its outset and throughout, the theme of paying for influence is front and center, as the single thing most corrupt about our current political system, one that has only been made more encompassingly corrupt via recent Supreme Court decisions. (This movie is the most up-to-date so far, with references to both the recent McCutcheon and Hobby Lobby decisions.) Yet rather than taking a cynical, what's-the-use? attitude, Ennis insists that we and our work really matter. As former would-be politician Mr. Yalamanchili tells us, "It's always one person."

By the time we see Ennis and his daughter beginning to play the Monopoly game, then switching to Anti-Monopoly, as he tries to explain his political rationale to the three-year old, we can only laugh -- and hope. Pay 2 Play is actually a very heartening movie.

It opened yesterday, with almost no critical reviews to be seen. I wonder why? In any case, try to see this one, then think about what you, as one person, can do -- whether you're Tea Party or Progressive (and you two may be closer than you imagine).

Pay 2 Play can be viewed now in New York City at the AMC Loews Village VII, and will open next Friday, September 12, in Los Angeles (at Laemmle's Noho 7) and in Washington DC (at the Angelika Pop-Up). Surely DVD, VOD and streaming cannot be far behind.

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