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They can't say no to The Yes Men

Review by Cindy Beringer | November 5, 2004 | Page 9

The Yes Men, directed by Dan Ollman, Chris Smith and Sarah Price.

THE YES Men begins with a fake World Trade Organization (WTO) Web site created by anti-globalization activists Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno. When site visitors think it's the real thing, the two men are asked to speak at conferences around the world.

This documentary follows the two--dressed in thrift shop suits and toting the obligatory PowerPoint presentation--as they travel around the globe posing as WTO representatives. The result is a hilarious film with a deadly serious message. The two aren't arrested or thrown out as they expected. Instead, the more bizarre their proposals, the more seriously they're taken.

At a Finland textiles conference, Andy steps out of his business attire to model a gold-lame leisure suit which, when unzipped, inflates a giant phallus with a TV set at its tip. This "Employee Visualization Appendage," he says, allows busy factory managers to pursue leisure activities while keeping track of sweatshop workers in remote locations. On a screen behind him, a PowerPoint model jogs merrily past mountains and seashores, holding on to his inflated member and observing his employees on his personal screen.

The audience gives him a big round of applause. On the plane home, Bichlbaum and Bonanno are amused by photos of their creation in the local papers. Later, it appears in Fortune magazine.

In Australia, the men announce that the WTO will be closed and reorganized to be more respectful of human rights. The conference-goers are quick to respond positively, revealing their awareness that there's something rotten about this institution. It's not clear what reaction, if any, the "real" WTO bigwigs had to any of these spurious performances or what happened, if anything, when the truth was discovered.

Their Web site offers valuable information about the "real" WTO and its free market attack on the poor. And a companion book, The Yes Men: The True Story of the End of the World Trade Organization, adds background to the documentary.

Bichlbaum and Bonanno plan to continue their campaign against the WTO. Their work is a powerful reminder of the need to rebuild the anti-globalization movement.

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