On the Latte: Vini Vidi Venti
Starbucks Foe Brews Up a Controversy
Performance artist-activist Reverend Billy delivered a shocker on the final night of AFI’s Silverdocs when he proclaimed from the stage that Starbucks had yanked its sponsorship of the film festival because of his involvement. The anti-consumerism provocateur (real name: Bill Talen) has lashed out at the chain’s labor and purchasing practices (sample lyric: “Don’t take slavery in my coffee / We like Fair Trade, it’s so tasty”), and he declared Sunday that Silverdocs had bravely chosen his new documentary (“What Would Jesus Buy?”) over Starbucks’s bucks.
Really? Not quite, festival reps told us. Instead, when the chain learned Silverdocs would be showcasing Talen (who has staged stunt exorcisms in its stores), it simply asked to have its logos removed from the festival — “but they gave us our sponsorship money,” about $5,000.
The practice of giving money but withholding logos as a response to content is also something some public funding sources have done in reaction to films like ZOO, so as not to kick up too much manure.
As long as the checks clear, most festivals have little problem with this practice.
But is this just the first step in the inevitable process money (public and private) influencing content?