Monday, February 28, 2005

Title: The Yes Men
Cast: Andy Bichlbaum, Mike Bonanno
Director: Dan Ollman, Sarah Price

The Yes Men are a group of anti-corporate activists, at the core of which is two men. This film is a documentary about these men and their activities; particularly regarding their culture hacks against the World Trade Organisation.

The film starts with a trip to Finland where they are to make a presentation, before flashing back to flesh out the history of the group. After a couple of individual attacks against culture, mutual friends suggested that perhaps these two men should meet and work together. This saw the rise of the Barbie Liberation Front, the swapping of voice chips between Action Men and Barbie dolls. Then they moved on to doing a George W Bush website, which mirrored the real site of the man running for president in 1999, but translated the political double speak into truth. A stunt which brought together the ideas behind this film.

As they explain to the camera, The Yes Men are interested in the idea of ID reset. Something they equate to being like ID theft, except they take a public figure or organisation who they regard as putting forward lies and propaganda to cover up “criminal” activities. So that in the case of George W. Bush they countered his environmental proposals with his actual track record on the environment while governor of Texas. This stunt gained attention, including Bush himself being quizzed about the site. With this they were asked to do something similar for the WTO. Which they did, and on doing so they were surprised to find that they started to receive email from people who though they really were the WTO.

Thus started the Yes Men’s stint as WTO impersonators. Graduating to speaking at business events or doing TV interviews posing as representatives of the WTO. The idea to start documenting this process must have come after the success of their first appearance in Austria. Surprised to find that they weren’t caught, we follow them from Paris to Helsinki to London to Australia. With each step seeing The Yes Men pushing the boundaries of what they can get away with in the hope that they can make people take a closer look at the WTO and what it stands for.

The film is quite a nice little documentary, at just under an hour and a half it doesn’t over state the case. As it follows the core pair, we are all introduced to the other Yes Men, a support team of skilled friends who are always on hand for costume design or hi-tech animated presentations – something which is crucial to the success that the group have enjoyed. There are a couple of cameos by Michael Moore, who provides some background to the WTO and their activities. To a degree this inclusion can perhaps be seen as lending a certain credibility, though with the shambling mess that was Fahrenheit 9/11 and the way that Moore seems to over state himself in the media, then perhaps his inclusion has become more of a liability.

The core of the groups activity is satire and with that this is quite an amusing film, there is definite humour to be found from some of the absurd statements that they make, but at the same time it manages to put across some of the pertinent issues that relate to the WTO and the increasing world poverty gap, that will effect us all sooner or later.

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