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Movie Review: The Yes Men Fix the World

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Written by Caballero Oscuro

Part documentary, part elaborate hoax, this enlightening new film exposes the folly and arrogance of big business and government in a decidedly direct manner. The Yes Men are Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, pranksters with a conscience who were previously filmed for the 2004 documentary The Yes Men. Where other filmmakers such as Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock tread similar territory from a mostly observational standpoint, the Yes Men pass themselves off as agents of their intended targets.

Acting as the stars and directors this time, the duo set up fake websites purporting to belong to major corporations or government agencies, then wait to get invited to public forums where they claim to be representatives of those companies. They’re not just passive observers; they actually take to the stage at these events and make seemingly legitimate presentations that emphatically portray the extent to which capitalism at any cost has undermined basic human decency. The goal is to shame big business and government into doing the right thing, and while the results appear to be fairly unsuccessful during the course of the film, their exploits clearly raise some valid red flags that will hopefully lead to greater impact and discussion through this more widely accessible venue.

In their most high-profile stunt, the boys pass themselves off to the mighty BBC as representatives of industrial giant Dow Chemical. In an interview broadcast live on the BBC to an audience of millions, Bichlbaum in his guise as a Dow spokesperson states that Dow has agreed to compensate the victims of the 1984 Bhopal, India gas disaster to the tune of $12 billion as part of their buyout of culprit Union Carbide. The resulting tremendous dive in Dow’s stock price comes as no surprise, but also shows the moral depravity of big business as a seemingly honorable humanitarian effort creates a huge negative hit to the company. It’s questionable whether the Yes Men acted in poor taste by temporarily raising the hopes of the actual victims of the disaster, but they take pains to travel to Bhopal to get some positive feedback about the stunt from select local representatives. It’s also questionable whether they had any real impact, as Dow has still failed to make amends to the disaster victims and the company share price quickly recovered when the hoax was exposed, but at the very least it’s extremely gripping footage.

Elsewhere, the boys poke at HUD’s response to Hurricane Katrina, come up with an inventive alternative energy solution for Exxon, and unveil a fake Halliburton survival suit called the Survivaball. Remarkably, they avoid arrest and get through most of their public presentations to unsuspecting audiences without interruption, even when demonstrating a financial model that purports to calculate the value of human life against potential business profitability. They are compelling figures and concoct some truly fascinating hoaxes, but the real power of their work is their exposure of the unabashed nonchalance and failure of their targets to mend their ways.

The Yes Men Fix the World opens today in Los Angeles and continues its national and UK rollout in the coming weeks. For more information and theaters, visit their website.

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