Review of the ﬁlm ‘The Yes Men.” Directed by Chris Smith, Sarah Price and Dan Ollman. United Artists, 2003. Starring Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno. 83 min. Rated R. Avail. DVD.
“The Yes Men,” is a brilliantly funny satire and pseudo mock documentary which chronicles the exploits a group of political activists, who use rogue media appearances, hoax lectures, and a prankster spoof of the World Trade Organization web site to criticize the social and environmental impacts of economic globalization. The ﬁlm follows Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum two super-activist-pranksters around the world from New York to Finland and on to Australia. Their daring mission is to pose as WTO representatives and get invited to business conferences and trade forums. There they make outrageous arguments on the WTO’s behalf, arguments that expose what they see as the WTO’s underlying cruelty and absurdity. And the irony is that they succeed and their ideas are accepted by their corporate audience.
We are treated to a talk given in Finland, at a WTO meeting on textiles, to a bewilderingly funny lecture given by “Hank Hardy Unruh,” an impostor posing as a representative of the WTO. “Unruh” is a member of the Yes Men, an activist group that maintains a website at www.gatt.org that parodies the website of the World Trade Organization. The group received an email message inviting the WTO to send a speaker to the conference, which was attended by international business leaders and academics. The speech was well received, and the master of ceremonies praised it three times during the day.
He begins with the words: “the ﬁrst leg of our journey is back to 1860s America. We all know about the U.S. Civil War-the bloodiest, least proﬁtable war in the history of America, a war in which unbelievably huge amounts of money went right down the drain. And all for textiles!”
The pair of Prankster’s Bonanno and Bichlbaum then travel to Australia where they announce that the WTO, after acknowledging the fact that it is a major cause of poverty in the developing would, is disbanding. Much to the pairs apparent amazement the pronouncement is accepted by the group of accountants attending the lecture.
There is also a devastatingly funny scene where the pair speak before a group of upstate New York college students. One posing as an executive of McDonalds and the other as a WTO representative. Together they explain to the students the economic and nutritional beneﬁts of post human waste recycled hamburgers.
The movie presents a strong anti-globalization message in an extremely palatable form. The Yes Men’s goal is simply: “Changing the world one prank at a time.”
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