Friday, November 20, 2009
Back in 2003, merry political pranksters Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum were featured in the documentary “The Yes Men.” Now they are back with “The Yes Men Fix the World” (opening November 20 at the Reading Gaslamp Stadium 15).
In their first feature film outing, Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum -- two men with no economics training whatsoever -- posed as representatives of the World Trade Organization. And got away with it. At least for a time. Now they are back like super heroes to save the world from the insanity it has found itself in.
Previously, Bonanno was involved with the Barbie Liberation Organization, which switched out the voice boxes of Barbie and G.I. Joe dolls and then put them on the shelves for unsuspecting consumers to buy. Bichlbaum worked as a video game programmer and replaced the large breasted bimbos with swimsuit clad male studs who kissed each other. Together they started a fake George W. Bush web site before the 2000 campaign, which prompted Dubya to rail, “there should be limits to freedom.” That remark, caught on tape and broadcast nationwide on the news, helped launch the careers of these two political pranksters.
The Yes Men were and remain anti-corporate pranksters who create phony web sites -- masquerading as companies like Halliburton -- and then they lie in wait for unsuspecting people to contact them and invite them to high-level corporate conferences and media events. Then they give hilarious speeches unmasking global injustices and taking satiric aim at those who abuse human rights. They are media showman that hopes that their pranks will draw media attention to problems or will serve up some sort of public humiliation for the corporations they despise. The Yes Men don't exactly speak truth to power but they demonstrate that their hearts and minds are in very close proximity to their funny bones. So while other activists may protest and try to make serious arguments, The Yes Men have decided that humor is the best weapon in any political assault. And although they are passionate about their causes and have serious points they want to make, they remain decidedly good-natured and good-humored, displaying genuine bemusement at their ability to fool so many people.
In this particular outing, The Yes Men set up corporate alter egos for themselves and then expose people who are profiting from Hurricane Katrina, uncover some of those responsible for the environmental disaster in Bhopal (something also touched upon in their first documentary), and take jabs at corporations like Halliburton and others.
So if Michael Moore is too strident or too manipulative in his filmmaking practices, you might find The Yes Men more entertaining and maybe even more effective in getting their points across. After all laughter is a great way to disarm the opposition and create an opening. Mike and Andy don’t quite manage to fix the world so they will likely be looking for some more opportunities to pull more pranks.
“The Yes Men Fix the World” provides an entertaining documentary about a novel and hilarious approach to political activism.
Companion viewing: “The Yes Men,” “Roger and Me,” “Chicago Ten”