If you like the humor of “The Daily Show” at all, your attendance
at a showing of this film is mandatory. I hesitate to give anything
away, even for a documentary, but where else are you going to see
a man in a gold lamé “manager’s leisure suit,”
equipped with a three-foot, unmistakably phallic appendage that
contains a television monitor that the manager will use to properly
administer electric shocks to discipline workers in factories on
the other side of the world? Perhaps this may seem sophomoric until
you consider that this was done as part of a presentation to a “Textiles
of the Future” conference in Tampere, Finland. If this isn’t
enough, consider that, evidently, none of the polite attendees at
this conference thought that this merited any immediate rebuttal.
One woman later commented that the shape might not be desirable
for managers who could be female. That is certainly something to
think about. I don’t think you want to miss this.
The Yes Men is not a movie about egregious corporate
sycophants, at least not directly. The Yes Men
refers to a group of people led by two men, Mike Bonnano
and Andy Bichlbaum, who are expert in this interesting
new twist on a time-honored tradition of political satire. They
have perfected a political maneuver that they like to refer to as
“identity correction,” as opposed to simple identity
theft. They assume the identity of their political adversaries and
propound their positions to ridiculous extremes, thus revealing
flaws in the adversaries’ positions, sort of like Swift’s
“A Modest Proposal.”
Now, this may all seem highly improbable in this modern world,
that anyone would allow these fellows to so appropriate identities,
until you consider the perfect venue for such hi-jinks, a web page.
When Bush lacked the foresight to secure all possible
domain names for his election bid, these guys helped to develop
http://www.gwbush.com, a highly
sarcastic and irritating parody of the “genuine” http://www.georgewbush.com.
George Bush compounded this mistake by complaining about it to the
press. But even the dimmest Bush-ites could tell the difference
between those web pages.
What makes the movie is the tale of their website, http://www.gatt.org,
which is a parody of the “correct” website of the World
Trade Organization, http://www.wto.org.
The parody here is more subtle. It was so subtle that some conference
organizers actually mistook this website for the real thing and
consequently invited the satirists to guest at conferences, thinking
that they were asking the real W.T.O. For The Yes Men, this opportunity
for political mischief was simply too much to resist. This movie
documents all of this and what happens next, as their satire becomes
increasingly outlandish. For a great example from traditional media
that elaborates on events depicted in the film, check out http://www.rtmark.com/more/articles/yesmennytimes20010107.html.
As you might suspect, http://www.theyesmen.org
is well worth the time.
This subject matter would certainly give any documentary filmmaker
an excuse to inject their own sensationalistic personal flair through
narration, music, camera work, graphics or added opinions. The temptation
to clown while making a documentary on clowns must be considerable.
These filmmakers, however, resisted, adopting a classical and extremely
dry approach to their subject. There are some minimal interviews
with Michael Moore and Greg Palast,
which provide some explanation of the political outrage that the
subjects feel towards the W.T.O.; otherwise, there is little else
outside of the actions and commentary of The Yes Men themselves.
In a new age of much louder and flashier political documentaries,
this works against the film, making it seem a bit slow, cheap, or
perhaps even a tad shallow, but I admire and applaud this approach.
Editor Dan Ollman has crafted a lean film that
flows effortlessly, and seems much shorter than the stated 107 minutes.
The viewer has time to consider the significance of some rather
mundane shots of The Yes Men as they go about their preparations,
and this takes the movie, The Yes Men, beyond a simply
didactic political screed. Considering the dehumanizing nature of
the evil that they rail against, this choice is entirely appropriate.
Still, I wish that this film had a bright shiny hook, if only to
drag a few extra viewers off the street.
Make no mistake, The Yes Men have what it takes to carry this film,
all by themselves. Their satiric speechwriting is solid. They soundly
skewer an enormously powerful and secretive organization so effectively
as to question the very sanity of our political system itself. This
humor is not for everyone. The parasitic political bosses and their
lackeys who benefit from the W.T.O. might find it improper and offensive.
Those people, who value their own time as being much more valuable
than “common people,” would resent laughs at the expense
of these noble professionals. If you prize protocol over passion,
this film might not be for you. Humor is often hard to predict,
but I haven’t laughed so hard during a film in a very, very
What else could you ask of a political film? More depth? Go see
The Corporation. More style? Fahrenheit 9/11.
If you have taken the time to enjoy those films, then you owe it
to yourself to take in this treat. If you haven’t, then this
is the perfect film with which to start.
At the end of the aforementioned speech in Finland, you will hear
the words “I am excited to be here.” You’ll be