Monday, July 27, 2009

SFJFF: The Yes Men Fix the World

San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
Castro Theater
The Yes Men Fix the World
2009 | France, USA | color | 90 min
Andy Bichlbaum, Mike Bonanno

Yesterday afternoon I was back at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival for the San Francisco premiere of this 2nd Yes Men movie. Executive Director Peter Stein introduced Andy Bichlbaum before the screening, who said he hoped the film's influence would be "disruptive." The film then played to a cheering audience of supporters. It documents more Yes Men pranks, opening with Mr. Bichlbaum's brazen impersonation of a Dow Chemical spokesperson, delivering good news to the victims of the Bhopal disaster. Other stunts range from the tasteless to the happily inane. I was repulsed by the Exxon human candles & loved the Halliburton survival suits, which make the wearer look like a giant tick.

There are some moments that must have surprised the filmmakers as well. We should all be delighted by Kyrgyzstan's presence at the New Orleans recovery trade show. And then there is Ray Nagin, who finds himself sitting next to Mr. Birchbaum's fake HUD agent & then delivers a sly speech about naked truth. It's Michael Moore meets Borat.

After the screening Mr. Bichlbaum appeared again, to a standing ovation. In the Q & A he admitted that in 3 of the pranks, the audience recognized the Yes Men, at which point they just sat back & enjoyed the show. Which makes me wonder what effect the pranks have on their immediate audience. Do people realize it's just a joke & then move on? Surprisingly, the Yes Men have never been sued by any of their targets.

The Yes Men Fix the World was shown as part of a day of Social Justice Films at the festival. The grassroots organizers were out in force, & I was pamphleted several times, though when I got home I discovered that one of the leaflets was for a psychic reader.

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