“The Yes Men Fix the World” is a follow-up to the 2003 film “The Yes Men,” which traced the exploits of the politically aware, slightly deranged, hoax-minded jokesters Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno. They’re brilliant pranksters adept at pulling wool over gullible eyes.
It’s not often that a documentary comes with flashbacks. Nor is it common for a film to document the careful planning and execution of a scheme to humiliate global corporations.
“The Yes Men Fix the World” does all of that in grand style, and then some. It’s a follow-up to the 2003 film “The Yes Men,” which traced the exploits of the politically aware, slightly deranged, hoax-minded jokesters Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno.
Their M.O. in that first humorous and offbeat adventure was to pass themselves off as members of the World Trade Organization, get themselves invited to make a presentation on helping the world economy, then turning the tables on the WTO – as well as the trusting folks who hired them – by offering absurd and outrageous ideas, and getting conference attendees to believe them.
The new film opens with Andy in disguise (this is done repeatedly with various unflattering hair styles and cheap suits) and calling himself Jude Finisterra (one of many fake names). He’s posing as a representative of Dow Chemical, about to speak at a conference televised to 300 million viewers on BBC World Television.
His goal: to take full responsibility for the 20-year-old incident at Bophal, India, commonly known as the worst industrial accident in history, and the cause of 18,000 deaths. Dow never properly cleaned up its mess, nor did it compensate any victims. But now it would – according to “Finisterra” – to the tune of $12 billion.
The admission of guilt and the offering of aid are, of course, all false. The film then flashes back to how these two guys pulled off this astounding hoax as well as what they hoped to accomplish by doing it.
That alone could fill the running time of a feature film. They’re brilliant pranksters adept at pulling wool over gullible eyes.
But there’s plenty more, including being invited to an oil industry conference as last-minute replacements for a bigwig from Exxon (where they are caught, removed from the stage, then expelled from the building), and speaking at the Gulf Coast Reconstruction Conference in New Orleans, right under the nose of Mayor Ray Nagin, on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, with Halliburton as their target.
The purpose of the Yes Men’s stunts is to cut a gaping gash in the sides of corporations that continually make more and more money, usually at the expense of people who have been put in jeopardy. It’s done with the disguises and fake names, along with hidden cameras and a natural ability for giving convincing speeches and creating terrific (and insane) multimedia presentations.
The responses of those listening to and watching these “shows” range from silence and mouths hanging open to hearty applause, without any realization of being duped.
By the time the Yes Men take on a certain metropolitan newspaper – with a dose of high humor that ends on an up note – you have to wonder how the duo manages to fund all of this elaborate craziness. But there’ll be no doubt in anyone’s minds that they’re the good guys.
The Patriot Ledger