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Friday, October 23, 2009

Yes!

The Yes Men Fix the World
***1/2
Dir. The Yes Men

The Yes Men, for those unfamiliar with their work, are Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno (And friends) a group that creates mischief in order to highlight the immorality of corporations. This film follows them as they set out to do nothing less that "fix the world," through a few of those acts (part prank part performance art) as they show up at trade events as corporations like Halliburton presenting absurd and Swiftian proposals. What's disturbing is that while a few people can smell something fishy, others are more than excited by the business opportunities of turning people into candles or how to make civilian deaths in third-world countries "golden" opportunities.

This is an excellent documentary not only because it captures these acts, including their largest ever where they appear on BBC news as Dow to apologize for the Bhopal disaster, but also it shows that these are just two regular guys in suits who are often in over their heads. This is not a Michael Moore film, where he's the stable voice of populist outrage, but rather a film about how easy it is for anyone to create substantial headaches for the corporations of the world. It is a very self-reflexive film, the two men are not presented as larger than life crusaders, but are shown in comically self-deprecating re-creations. The film also looks at the dangers of free-market capitalism making some startlingly apt comparisons between it and a suicide cult.

This film is a must see, and a stark contrast to other, more self-sufficient political films. The film doesn't pretend to have answers, it even shows how these events often get publicity but not the kind that makes a difference. What's best is that this is not a self-contained film but one that requires, and invites participation. At the NY screenings organizations are leading direct-action protests after certain screenings targeting irresponsible corporations, and they plan to continue this on college campuses where the film is shown. Hopefully the film can reach a larger audience; it has essentially no distribution deal and no budget. So tell you're local art house you want to see this film. It's a rare bird; a rather less didactic political film that's hilarious, disturbing, and compelling not on an abstract issue level, but on a directly human one.

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