If you’re already familiar with The Yes Men, the following information might be all you need from me: 7 p.m., Monday, March 16, 2015, Room H-110, Concordia University.
For the rest of you. . . The Yes Men are bringing the latest documentary about themselves, The Yes Men Are Revolting, to Montreal. This is the third film about them, so they must be pretty interesting, right? Right! And the film was invited to the Toronto Film Festival in 2014 and the Berlin Film Festival this year.
The Yes Men are multi-talented multi-taskers. They are authors, activists, co-conspirators, inspired impersonators, performance artists, political pranksters, practical jokers, rabble rousers, social-justice warriors. Or, to put it more briefly, they’re “the good guys.” (Well, I think so, and I know that many others do, too.)
The Yes Men are Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonnano, though they are aided and abetted by hundreds of like minded souls. They use humour, chutzpah and their considerable wits to expose injustice. They hope that their antics will shame corporations or politicians into doing the right thing.
The Yes Men are canny users of the media. They often get their message out through phony web sites, phony press releases, or at press conferences where they impersonate someone in a position of authority.
Their most audacious prank was on BBC TV in 2004. On the 20th anniversary of a deadly chemical leak in Bhopal, India, Bichlbaum impersonated a “Dow Chemical spokesman” who said that the company would take full responsibility for the disaster and spend $12 billion on clean up and compensation. (Dow Chemical had bought Union Carbide in 2001, but refused to accept any responsibility for the victims or for cleaning up the site, which was still contaminated, 20 years after the leak.)
At least 8,000 people died within 72 hours of the gas leak at a Union Carbide plant, 15,000 more died in the following years, and 100,000 had debilitating illnesses “for which treatment is largely ineffective.”
The hoax got lots of international attention, though sadly it did not prompt Dow Chemical to change its stance.
The Yes Men have impersonated representatives of the World Trade Organization, Halliburton,
U.S. Chamber of Commerce and U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. They even have “Canadian content.” During a Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen they created several fake web sites that said Environment Canada was committed to making huge reductions in greenhouse gases, and that Canada would pay $13 billion in compensation to African countries that were adversely affected by climate change. They spoofed an oil and gas conference in Calgary, and they put Justin Bieber’s face on an asthma inhaler. (That was on a web site created to mock greenwashing by coal companies. You can read the post I wrote about it here.)
When reviewing the previous films, The Yes Men (2003) and The Yes Men Fix the World (2009) some critics wrote that they would have liked to know more about what makes the Yes Men tick, what prompts their activism. While I’ve not seen The Yes Men Are Revolting, reviews I’ve read indicate that we do learn more about the day-to-day lives of the duo and how their political work has an impact on their family relationships.
There is no fixed price for admission to the screening of The Yes Men Are Revolting, it’s a pay what you can situation, though the suggested price is $5 to $10.
I suggest bringing some extra cash, in case there is some The Yes Men merchandise for sale. Their online store has T-shirts, DVDs, posters, books, spoof editions of New York Times, New York Post AND “one Survivaball: Couture for Climate Calamity. Extremely Limited Edition – $10,000.00” I suspect that the last item is a joke. The thing does exist, but are they really selling it? Maybe we will find out on Monday night.
The Yes Men Are Revolting, directed by Laura Nix & The Yes Men / United States / 2014 / 90 ‘ / in English
Screening, with The Yes Men in attendance, at 7 p.m., Monday, March 16, 2015, 1455 de Maisonneuve West, Room H110, Concordia University, Montreal