Political Film Society - The Yes Men

PFS Film Review
The Yes Men


The Yes MenThe Yes Men, directed by Dan Ollman, Sara Price, and Chris Smith, is an autodocumentary in the same genre as Michael Moore's Roger & Me (1989). Indeed, Moore appears on the screen twice with his usual eloquence. However, the real inspiration appears to have come from Candid Camera's Alan Funt, as the two principals, Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, spend much of the film posing as members of the World Trade Organization despite their complete opposition to the organization. They begin the film by explaining how they started, as developers of the www.gwbush.com website in 1999, in which they debunk positions stated on www.georgewbush.com of his record as governor of Texas. They then proceed to develop www.gatt.org as an alternative website for the website of the World Trade Organization, which grew out of GATT (the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade). Since gatt.org emerged prominently on Google searches, they enjoyed a lot of traffic and garnered invitations to attend conferences, including requests to speak. As a result, they receive attention from the media, including a debate with an opponent of globalization on MSNBC, Roger Coates, with whom they later have a delightful "you were on candid camera" meeting. The content of their speeches is to present the truth about WTO in an unapologetic, matter-of-fact manner. In an interesting experiment of sorts, they compare audiences. No matter how absurd, academics and government officials in Finland and elsewhere applaud and do not raise questions about what they say. In contrast, an audience of students at Plattsburgh, New York, is outraged and says so. The thesis of their presentation, which alternates between "candid camera" appearances and dialogs with the camera in hotelrooms and elsewhere, is well summarized in a speech in Australia, where Bichlbaum pretends to announce that the WTO has decided to reinvent itself to make improving human rights the central goal, not profits, based on statistics that document the widening gap between rich and poor countries in the world. The satire, whose tagline is "Changing the world one prank at a time," is at its best in focusing on all those who are uncritical of the way in which "freedom" is now defined by Democrats and Republicans as corporate greed without governmental regulation. The Political Film Society has nominated The Yes Men as best film exposé and best film on human rights of 2004.  MH

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