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‘Yes Men’ at the Shortwave cinema, Bermondsey Square

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Last week Shortwave cinema in London’s Bermondsey square held a one-off screening of this year’s film The Yes Men Fix the World to coincide with the United Nations Conference for Climate Change in Copenhagen

Guests arrived at the cinema to be greeted with a copy of the International Herald Tribune, a topical revision of a similar prank featured in the film, whereby 100,000 fake New York Times’ were distributed across the city. The papers were stamped with ‘all the news we hope to print’, reporting ‘Iraq war ends’ and other equally positive but surprising stories.

Likewise the Tribune drew momentary expressions of shock and collective smiles from the audience as its headlines proclaimed ‘Heads of state agree historic climate-saving deal’ at Copenhagen, setting a theme of hope and optimism that ran throughout the film.

The film follows two ‘gonzo political activists’, Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno (played by Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos), as they embark on a series of elaborate pranks at the expense of large corporations and government agencies.

By inventing fake websites, the group get themselves invited to conferences on behalf of their least favourite companies, then, posing as key representatives, propose outrageous new initiatives (one prank involves Exxon proposing a new fuel made from human victims of climate change) or sees them simply declaring that for once their company will actually do the right thing. Their largest hoax involved declaring to the world on the BBC that Dow Chemical would take all responsibility for the 1984 Bhopal disaster and set up a $12 billion fund to compensate those affected by the fatal gas leaks.

While some of the pranks might not actually fool anyone for very long, they certainly demand attention and introduce an amusing cast of characters, each with their own business like ‘power-name’, cheap suit and bad haircut.

It is the responses of the ordinary people caught in the productions of the pranks which form the film’s real success. While the protagonists’ methods may be denounced by corporations as ‘cruel’ and giving ‘false hope’, we also see countless instances of public joy and gratitude as the Yes Men’s subversions remind us that there is an alternative to the current situation.

Film credits

Writer and director Andy Bichlbaum, Mike Bonanno
Editor April Merl
Music Neel Murgai, Noisola
Producers Bichlbaum, Bonanno, Doro Bachrach, Ruth Charny and Laura Nix
Distribution Shadow Distribution
Running time 1 hour 27 minutes
Release date 7th Aug 2009

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