In late 2003, as the city of Detroit, MI, was in the midst of a campaign to refurbish its image and infrastructure after the city was named the site of the 2006 Super Bowl, the subject of graffiti became newly controversial as a tagger known only as "TRDL" (whose trademark was a stylized turtle) began leaving his mark all over the city. When TRDL painted his tell-tale critter on an outdoor sculpture in the courtyard of a Detroit art gallery, the outraged owner offered a bounty of 1,000 dollars to whoever would step forward to identify the tagger, and as citizens debated the question of graffiti as art or vandalism, the police instituted a major crackdown on graffiti, introducing new laws which would send taggers to state prison. Paint Cans and Politics is a documentary by Detroit filmmaker Tony Smith that examines the underground graffiti movement in the Motor City, from the perspectives of both the artists and the law enforcement community, as Detroiters argue issues of free expression versus the value of private and public property.
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