The Yes Men (2003)
Audio Commentary-Andy Bichlbaum And Mike Bonanno, With Directors
|Year Of Production||2003|
|Running Time||78:24 (Case: 80)|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||
Dr. Andreas Bichlbauer
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||No|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
"Changing the world one prank at a time"
The Yes Men are Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum. They are anti-corporate political agitators of an unusual kind. Eschewing violent conflict or left wing soap-boxing they choose to present their ideas through humorous pranks, sometimes with startling results. Like Ali G but with a serious intent their stunts will have you peeking out from behind the sofa in embarrassed disbelief.
The DVD The Yes Men presents three of their most audacious pranks. By way of background we learn of early pranks: the insertion by software designer Bichlbaum of men kissing into a popular video game to show the macho nature of game design (although in the audio track he admits that he did it because he was bored and came up with the sociological context later) and switching the voice boxes in Barbie dolls with Action Man – putting them back on the shelves for unwitting purchasers - creating soldier figures which said “I like doing my hair” and Barbies which spoke of blood and guts!
However, these are mere precursors to the elaborate stunts depicted in this documentary. Having made a mock Bush website with great success they turned their attention to the World Trade Organisation and created a dummy WTO website with a similar domain name. Their aim was to “correct the identity” of the WTO.
The message of the Yes Men is clear and is spelt out with statistics throughout the documentary, although the movie is far from dry and analytical. The WTO and globalization were intended to create a fairer World with a reduced imbalance between the First World and developing countries. Instead, the poor nations are poorer and the rich richer. Even Michael Moore makes a cameo saying how the Mexican experience showed that 10 years after corporate involvement that was meant to spur the economy, the living conditions of the Mexican workers are unchanged but the profits of the U.S. corporations are much improved.
It was of little surprise to The Yes Men that some people came to the site by mistake and missed the fact that it was an obvious parody of the real site. However, The Yes Men couldn’t believe their luck when they were invited to speak on behalf of the WTO at international conferences. Bichlbaum under a silly assumed name gives the lectures and Bonanno manipulates the sometimes complex animated side of the presentations.
Initially they attended a conference in Salzburg and presented a speech they thought would have them thrown out. The Yes Men could not believe that their speech, which suggested amongst other things that economic progress in Europe begins with the banning of the siesta in Spain, was received with general approval. A television debate followed in which Bichlbaum argued the case of the WTO with another activist who wasn’t in on the joke. His replies to questions are satirical gold – when grilled about an aspect of WTO policy he claims that the questioner is “too focussed on the facts” and not on theory.
A further invitation to speak at a conference in Finland was met with even greater ingenuity with “The Yes Men” speaking on textiles of the future. The speech included the demonstration of the WTO developed clothes of the future - a corporate leisure suit with a giant phallic object bursting from the front. The speech which included an analysis of the benefits of involuntary overseas workers (read slaves) and remote workforce (read sweatshop) management was also met with approval.
A further prank is then developed with a plan for feeding the Third World that is as funny as it may be logical to an economic rationalist.
The documentary itself is a bit ramshackle but “The Yes Men” are engaging personalities and the film is shot through with a genuine humanism that makes the message hard to ignore. As “The Yes Men” prepare for their pranks they shop for business clothes at recycled clothes stores and Bichlbaum has a kitchen buzz cut before each engagement. Their take on globalization will not be accepted or supported by all. It would have been possible for a serious minded movie to have been made about the crisis in World economics with equal force as The Yes Men. What is different is that the message is delivered with humour and earnestness and without polemics. Still, the presentations will have you laughing and cringing at the same time.
A post script: After the documentary was produced, Bichlbaum was accidentally invited by the BBC as representatives of Dow Chemicals (formerly Union Carbide) onto a live discussion about the legacy of the Bhopal chemical spill. True to form he admitted responsibility for the spill and pledged that Dow would pay compensation to the affected families. So The Yes Men live on!
The Yes Men was shot on digital video apparently at an original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. It receives a 16x9 enhanced transfer.
The film was shot on a budget and much of it is hand held camera. Although it lists several directors and an editor it is clear that the film was created by following The Yes Men through their various exploits and then cutting out anything that didn’t work.
The image quality is consistently lo-fi with grain throughout and some horrendous aliasing. Check out Mike's shirt at 4.26 to see clothing with a life of its own!
In some ways this actually adds to the effect of the film as some scenes, in particular the speeches, have an almost clandestine quality as if the camera was smuggled in to the lecture (it wasn’t but the effect is there).
As said, everything about the image quality is raw. There is a constant edge enhancement halo around the subjects.
The actual print is clean of artefacts or other blemishes but this is definitely not a DVD for the image purists.
There are subtitles for the hearing impaired which are clear and easy to read and give a good account of the dialogue. There are also subtitles for the scenes in Finland where the accent of one speaker makes the dialogue hard to hear.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) which is entirely appropriate for this documentary. The dialogue is audible and there are no lip sync issues.
The surrounds and subwoofer are not really missed. I was interested to note that the Region 1 DVD features surround (one site says DTS!) sound. The added sound options would do little for the enhancement of this movie.
There are some songs sprinkled through for effect but nothing essential to the film.
|Surround Channel Use|
There is an audio commentary by Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno with the Directors. This is interesting in parts in that they describe in more detail the set-ups for the pranks as well as explaining some of the arguments at the core of their activism. The commentary is hardly indispensable as they mostly describe what is already being shown but there are a few stories that linger, such as the woman at the conference in Finland who objected to the leisure suit because it did not recognise the needs of corporate women.
There are also a few short deleted scenes which were probably cut as they did not add much to the film.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The versions are the same except for the added sound options in the Region 1 release. Buy the local version.
Like Ali G but with a message, The Yes Men is a funny and somewhat scary profile of two dedicated political activists who shocked themselves by delivering unbelievable speeches to intelligent people who did not seem to question what they were told. By the time of the final prank (in Australia no less!) The Yes Men have made their point, that we are willing to swallow just about anything if delivered by someone we think knows better. Highly recommended for those who like their humour with a bit of bite or their politics with a dose of levity.
|DVD||Onkyo DV-SP300, using Component output|
|Display||NEC PlasmaSync 42" MP4 1024 x 768. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver.|
|Amplification||Onkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES|
|Speakers||JBL Simply Cinema SCS178 5.1|