Synopsis by Mark Deming
Bill Talen is a New York-based activist and performance artist who since the late '90s has won notoriety for his character Rev. Billy. Rev. Billy is a wildly charismatic street preacher and self-appointed leader of the Church of Stop Shopping, who began his career speaking out against the gentrification of New York City, the forced renovation of 42nd Street, and his favorite symbol of the evils of international marketing, the Disney Store. Since then, Rev. Billy has expanded his targets to include a number of firms (including Starbucks Coffee and several fast food chains) who engage in unfair labor practices and exploit Third World resources for profit; he also performs with a full gospel choir and a four-piece band as they spread the message of overcoming the consumer culture, speaking with your dollars and questioning what advertising and corporate spokespeople have to say. While Talen's routines started out as comic street theater, he's become recognized as an effective (if deliberately eccentric) advocate for economic justice, and filmmaker Rob VanAlkemade offers an in-depth look at the phenomenon of Rev. Billy in his documentary What Would Jesus Buy? Produced in part by Morgan Spurlock, What Would Jesus Buy? received its world premiere at the 2007 South by Southwest Film Festival.
consumerism, activism, arrest, choir, Christmas, crusade, eccentric, minister, performance-art, shopping