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A comedic documentary which follows The Yes Men, a small group of prankster activists, as they gain world-wide notoriety for impersonating the World Trade Organization on television and at business conferences around the world. The film begins when two members of The Yes Men, Andy and Mike, set up a website that mimics the World Trade Organization's--and it's mistaken for the real thing. They play along with the ruse and soon find themselves invited to important functions as WTO representatives. Delighted to represent the organization they politically oppose, Andy and Mike don thrift-store suits and set out to shock unwitting audiences with darkly comic satire that highlights the worst aspects of global free trade. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
After the birth of Fahrenheit 9/11 and other Michael Moore creations, there has been a plethora of politically driven documentaries entering the media culture. More and more films are being created to showcase either the ingenuity of the activists, or to uncover some unknown corruption in the system that we were not familiar with. It is a chance to be educated about the world surrounding us and the honesty of evil. In one of the most recent documentary releases, The Yes Men, we have the opportunity to both see the ingenuity of the activists and slightly uncover some corruption in the world. While The Yes Men is a very active film giving us these nervous moments of tension as two men pretend to be someone that they are not, the words and final moments that they are trying to convey do not always seem to come full circle. It felt as if they had this huge "ta-da" at the end of their crafty moment, but nobody seemed to care. Everyone agreed and went about their normal business. I guess that was the point that these activists were trying to show, but somehow I felt like it was all a part of some lackluster performance instead of this "in-your-face, this is wrong with our country" moment.
Our two main characters that we follow throughout the course of the film, Mike Bonanno and Dr. Andreas Bichlbauer (as if these are their real names), seem like they have such a grasp on their knowledge of the issues that they would want a bigger change to happen at the end of their "moment of glory" instead of just walking away as if they were just another cog in the machine. For example, their first speech overseas about the WTO and this phallic device that will help supervisors maintain their workers was a punch in the face, but like my reaction to the situation, nobody seemed to care. I think, in this case, it hurt the film. I wanted feedback from the audience about this bold move by the WTO and see outrage in their eyes, but instead nobody seemed to care. The same can be said about the last conference they attend where they officially close the WTO. That is a huge statement, and yet again nobody seemed to care. Sure, there were people afterwords talking about how happy they were, but the excitement or emotion was just not present. I wanted, and honestly needed, something that showed that these activists were making riffs in the corporate eyes of the world, not just filling a time slot.
The only time that they did not get such a passive response was when they spoke during a college class about the food solution in third world countries. Here, we did see the emotion and the anger at what they suggested, albeit was a bit more graphic and disturbing, but there was an outburst at the idea. The only trouble is that I have been to conferences before, and most of the time you are there because your business has forced you to be there, so you will believe anything that is said until the day is over just to get through. In college, you pay for your schooling so independent thought really is encouraged and is shown in this film. I do not think that this college scene did the justice that it deserved and really didn't seem to mesh with the rest of the film. I think these guys wanted to get some raw emotion reactions from anyone, and they found it here. I think they were trying to overcompensate for what their other conferences were missing. Sadly, it felt more like a jumbled mess instead of a valued point.
Overall, I was somewhat impressed with some of the aspects of this film, while not impressed with others. I thought the fact that these two "nobodys" could get into these conferences without a lick of accreditation or background check. Especially after the world's security tightened after 9/11. I think that was the aspect that shocked me the most. The rest of the film was interesting to watch, it just never felt like it was edited together correctly or that there was this big "ooooohhhhhh ahhhhhhhhh" sort of moments. Like the audiences at the conferences, I sat back and watched without really seeing the outcome of their work. I would have liked to know more about these guys and the changes they made to our global community. I would have liked to see at least one curmudgeon old man getting angry about what these two radicals thought, but nothing. Just plain agreement and wipe the slate clean. I felt the Yes Men focused to deeply on the development of each situation without having any sort of strong follow-up with the results. That hurt this film deeply. Perhaps I have grown accustomed to the "shock-umentary" style of film-making that is being released more and more, but I just never felt passionate about these guys. They were doing good work, but will it be remembered for years to come? I am not 100% sold on it yet.
Grade: *** out of *****
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