“THE YES MEN ARE REVOLTING”
Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum are legendary prankster protesters ( they are also known as Igor Vamos and Jacques Servin) and here they team up with director Laura Nix to chronicle their latest activist antics. After working together for more than 15 years to aggressively (and humorously) expose corporate greed and political malfeasance, the duo is now dealing with a bit a midlife crisis. Mike has a wife and two kids, Andy is settling in to what he hopes will be a long-term relationship with his new boyfriend, and their new priorities and responsibilities are starting to have a noticeable effect on their creative partnership. This doesn’t stop them from continuing to make trouble and news, however. Here global warming becomes the critical focus of their work, and so they set their sights on the fossil fuel industry’s biggest government lobbyist: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. That effort leads to their first major lawsuit and several other key actions (some successful, some a little less so) that take them to Uganda, Canada, and the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Along the way, they find themselves starting to question the true value and impact of their activism and they wonder if their work really helping to change the world. Of course, watching this film is one way to make sure it does.
When we consider the seriousness of the global problems that we are ignoring at our own peril, it is good to know that these two activists are ready to use their media savvy to ridicule and embarrass those members of the 1% who feel it is their privilege to rule the world and do whatever they want.
Andy poses as the spokesperson for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to talk about a recommendation for a “carbon tax” on polluters. This skit draws so much international attention that this lobbying organization threatens to sue the Yes Men for “commercial identity theft masquerading as social activism.”
At a climate change conference in Copenhagen, the Yes Men put together another charade to make clear the suffering of low-energy-consuming Third World countries at the hands of high-energy-consuming countries like the United States. Given the magnitude of the problems being generated by climate change, the Yes men are saddened by UN summits where diplomats talk but do not walk the talk.
Andy and Mike go their separate ways: one moves to Scotland with his family, and the other joins a Greenpeace effort to reveal Shell Oil’s plans in the Arctic. The two men reunite in a hilarious prank at the expense of those attending a Homeland Security conference. Here’s hoping that the Yes Men continue their Crazy Wisdom schemes exposing the plans, lies, and dangers of the rich and the powerful.
This is a film of the irrepressible hijinks. There are probably some grounds for fraud in the pranks pulled off by the two. Even so, the pure charm, courage and, at times, outright lunacy of the acts allows us to excuse that. The Yes Men do not falsely report what business leaders and worldwide fat cats say, they go far beyond that. They impersonate the top political and economic leaders of the world and say what, in the Yes men’s opinion, they should be saying in the first place.
As the team puts it, although the unbelievably massive tar sand mining represents a small impact to Canada, it causes a major impact to Uganda and other developing countries where critically fragile farm output is hamstrung by drought and high temperatures.
Just so you know, Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum are not their real names. They appear to teach at two well-known American Universities, which may have had a say in just how public the two were allowed to go in divulging their real lives. Their “What if” scenarios that have put their names on the map (and at the corporate bulls eye) for the last twenty years. This film not only recounts their chief accomplishments of the last few years, but it also checks into the personal lives of the two activists. As it turns out, being a political prankster is not always as glamorous as it sounds. Well into middle age, both are forced to re-examine the difference they are making and the ways and means required to raise a family and maintain a household.