"The Yes Men" (2003) dir. by Dan Ollman, Sarah Price and Chris Smith
Starring: Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos
By Blair Stewart
Two men on a stage for a World Trade Organization conference somewhere in Stockholm or Cleveland gloss over collusion between business interests and local governments with a steep price paid by the countries of the third, second (Cuba? North Korea?), and occasionally first world.
Then two other men get up and in a factually roundabout method that might segue into gold lame bodysuits and edible shitburgers say what the intentions of the W.T.O. and their global enablers really are.
I'd much prefer watching the latter. The W.T.O. would not.
Taking the prank-conscience activism of 'Adbusters' with a splash of the Situationists and swinging a wrecking ball at globalization, "The Yes Men" are a pack of good samaritans shaming corporation flunkies worldwide. An eponymous documentary on the two main wise-asses, 'Mike Bonanno' (Igor Vamos) and 'Andy Bichlbaum' (Jacques Servin), who go about these conferences nodding, shaking hands and smiling in suits until they get up on stage and stir shit up with their truth-telling. They've accomplished this by posting fake websites with subtle jibes towards the corporate world. Predictably by not reading-deeper this has lead to trade organizations inviting our heroes to conferences all over the globe, with the occasional appearance on primetime news. Poker-faced, the Yes Men argue in preference towards 'remote-controled foreign labour' and recycling fast-food burgers so we can sell them back to Bangladeshians. An inflatable phallus even puts on a show for the crowds.
Overwhelmingly in these situations 'Bichlbaum' as his alter-alter ego "Hank Hardy Unruh" (love that name) is met only with blank faces from the donkeys he's pinning a tail on.
A chilling reveal on the inhumane nature of capitalism while also being an enjoyable lark of a documentary, "The Yes Men" isn't exceptional in part due to an ending that peters out and the slight reveal on the real lives of the subjects. I found my latter issue surprising as co-directors Chris Smith and Sarah Price were responsible for such highly-praised works as “American Movie” and “Home Movie”, especially with “American Movie” digging right under the skin of its sad-sack dreamer Mark Borchardt.
Despite these qualms the anti-W.T.O. story is told with a lighter touch than Michael Moore's to which I am grateful, and I look forward to watching the sequel “The Yes Men Fix the World”, which involves the Halliburton-designed 'SurvivaBall', used to combat the effect of climate change. But of course.