'The Yes Men Fix the World'

"The Yes Men Fix the World" finds its titular merry pranksters up to yet more capitalist-critiquing chicanery and fat-cat-fooling fun.

A follow-up to “The Yes Men” — the droll, low-budget antiglobalization docu from helmers Chris Smith, Dan Ollman and Sarah Price — “The Yes Men Fix the World” finds its titular merry pranksters up to yet more capitalist-critiquing chicanery and fat-cat-fooling fun. Helmed this time by the Yes Men collective’s most prominent frontmen, Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonnano, this deliberately cheap-looking but likable pic finds them again pretending to be representatives for greedy multinationals in order to make outrageous proposals, and thus shame said organizations. Converted auds will say “yes” to this in low numbers theatrically.

The Yes Men’s m.o. owes much to Michael Moore’s stunts for “The Awful Truth” and “TV Nation,” a little bit to novelist/essayist Jonathan Swift, and even more to class-clown-style practical jokery. Their basic schtick is to set up fake websites and the like that supposedly rep large, nefarious corporations like Dow Chemical and Halliburton, then wait for invitations from gullible conference organizers and news organizations to roll in. Once they have an audience, frontmen Bichlbaum and Bonnano suit up and pretend to be executives keen to unveil bizarre new products or strategies (like making fuel out of dead people for Exxon) that take the corporation’s ruthless underlying logic to an extreme level.

Here, the pic shows the Yes Men pulling off arguably their biggest coup by having Bichlbaum pose as a Dow Chemical spokesman, an almost plausibly named flack Jude Finisterra. On live television, he promises Dow will accept full responsibility for the deaths of thousands of Indians affected by the chemical leak at Union Carbide’s (now a Dow subsidiary) factory in Bhopal 20 years ago, and pay appropriate compensation. The stunt prompts short-lived tears of joy in India and a reflexive storm in the media and financial communities.Staged-looking footage shot in India shows Bhopal residents laughing off the joke, as it allows them to keep their plight in the public eye.

Pic’s biggest laughs are generated not from the Yes Men’s gags themselves but from the cutaway shots of audience members looking on with barely disguised shock or, even more disturbingly, unruffled acceptance. Editing by April Merl adroitly maintains comic momentum, while use of old cartoons enhances merriment. Use of HD gear means the pic would probably look better on TV than the bigscreen, although this is sure to be a draw at further left-leaning festivals. (In Berlin, the pic’s first public screening was mobbed.)

For the record, no d.p. credit appears onscreen. Instead, some 50 names are listed as camera people in the pic’s end credits.

The Yes Men Fix the World

U.S.-France

Production

A Common Decency, Article Z (U.S.)/Arte France (France) production, with the support of Renegade Pictures U.K., Charny-Bachrach Entertainment, the Channel 4 Britdoc Foundation. (International sales: Cinetic Media, New York City.) Produced by Andy Bichlbaum, Mike Bonnano, Doro Bachrach, Ruth Charny, Laura Nix. Executive producers, Patrice Barrat, Alan Hayling, Jess Search, Juliette Timsit. Directed, written by the Yes Men (Andy Bichlbaum, Mike Bonnano). Co-director, Kurt Engfehr.

Crew

Camera (color, HD); editor, April Merl; music, Neel Murgai, animation, Patrick Lichty; Noisola; sound, John Bucher. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Feb. 6, 2009. (Also in Sundance Film Festival -- Spectrum.) Running time: 96 MIN. With : Andy Bichlbaum, Mike Bonnano.

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