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The Yes Men

Changing the world one prank at a time. 

Year: 2004 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from The Yes Men

Surprisingly, learning the functions of various national and international organisations can have funny, shocking and downright ridiculous benefits. Which is what Chris Smith, Sarah Price and Dan Ollman demonstrated when they made a film dealing with those soporific letters, 'WTO' (World Trade Organisation). Put simply, the film-makers charted the actions of Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum; modern day prankster-activists with a satirical edge. They set up a parody web site, it wasn't real, it wasn't official and it certainly didn't represent the WTO. Yet it still managed to fool people who matter, as organisations in countries from Australia to Finland and even the USA booked them as the official PR face of the WTO. These are the "Yes men", and this is the hilarious cult documentary of 2004.

Shot in an economic and relatively static style, it is the subject matter of this fascinating documentary that makes it so engaging. Think of it as a Michael Moore documentary covered in Christmas lights: Just as amusing, but a little bit brighter. Whilst not overtly political, the film-makers set out to demonstrate just how little we actually question established institutions, and also how these days deception is a very powerful political tool. The access granted to Mike and Andy is at sometimes farcical - as are their actions, like the phallic spandex body suit they crafted for one talk. The Yes Men also has a serious point; in the final event attended by the pair, Andy and Mike manage to convince some Australians that the WTO had disbanded and would soon reform. It would become more accountable, based on moral rather than economic principles, and actually useful. The awe and compassion shown by the delegates at this news is a moving, powerful testament to the desire by the general public to reform these institutions. It's a great shame it wasn't real.

Fascinating, funny and shocking at times, The Yes Men should be seen by everyone. If not for the great job it does of highlighting the ineptitude of established institutions such as the WTO, but for the recycled hamburger idea. You'll have to come and see the film to know what I'm talking about.

Edward Hemming

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Screenings of this film:

2005/2006 Autumn Term (35mm)