The Yes Men: The Daring Activism of the Recesist Duo

14. 10. 2016

Author: Filip Ĺ ebek

One of the most interesting guests of the 2nd session of Ex Oriente Film workshop will be Mike Bonanno from the activist duo The Yes Men, who comes to Jihlava thanks to the cooperation of Institute of Documentary Film and Jihlava IDFF.  Apart from the screenings of The Yes Men Fix the World and The Yes Men Are Revolting, a creative masterclass given by Mike Bonanno, “Using film for creative activism”, will be held in Jihlava. It will take place on Thursday, October 27, from 6:00 p.m. in Dukla Cinema, and will be open to all accredited guests of the festival. 

There are many ways in which activists can try to point out the arrogance and ruthlessness of the multinational corporations. Mike Bonanno (Igor Vamos by own name) and Andy Bichlbaum (Jacque Servin by own name) have decided for a journey paved with humor, based on witty happenings or false press conferences during which they credibly pose as the representatives of governments, corporations or lobbying organizations and on their behalf provide the journalists with very shocking pieces of information. With their actions, they are trying to draw attention to the problems associated not only with the multinational corporations but also global climate change or political lobby. 

The Yes Men were formed already in 1996. Their activities were introduced to the wide public in 2003 for the first time, when a documentary with a simple title The Yes Men was released and awarded at a prestigious film festival Sundance. In this film, both protagonists pretend to be the representatives of the World Trade Organization - WTO and create its fake website. Thanks to this trick they are invited to diverse press conferences where they present proposals how to lead the world free market in an original way.

Perhaps the greatest uproar was raised thanks to their event from 2004, when Andy Bichlbaum appeared in the BBC news live, in the position of the spokesman of the Dow Chemical company. It was on December 3, on the 20th anniversary of the disaster in Bhopal, the largest industrial accident in history. A. Bichlbaum had announced then that Dow Chemical intends to sell Union Carbide (the company responsible for the Bhopal disaster, owned by Dow Chemical) and use the received $ 12 billion for a full compensation and lifetime medical care to all of the disaster victims, as well as for the complete clean-up of the site. Before it was disclosed that it as a fake announcement, the company's shares had already decreased in value by 2 billion dollars. The whole incident is covered in another documentary from 2009, The Yes Men Fix the World.

Among the already legendary actions of The Yes Men there are for example the appearance at the Housing summit in New Orleans (after the Katrina hurricane) or their speech at  Canada's largest oil conference in Calgary a year later, when they posed as ExxonMobil and National Petroleum Council (NPC) representatives and presented in their stead a long-awaited study about the oil pumping in Alberta, Canada. In 2014, they shot a more personal film, an auto-portrait, called The Yes Men Are Revolting, in which they, among others, pointed out the controversial intentions of Shell concerning the oil production in the Arctic. 

All those interested in The Yes Mens' activities should visit their webpage http://yeslab.org/, the laboratory of so-called laughtivism, where the successful and entertaining social and environmental campaigns are born. Here The Yes Men can be contacted by activist organizations concerning specific dishonest policies of a company, person or a politician, to help them prepare a targeted campaign to raise public debate or, ideally, to change the legislation. The Yes Lab is open not only to activist groups but also to universities and non-profit organizations. Apart from his work for The Yes Men, Mike Bonanno works as a professor of media arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, near New York.

October 27; 6.30 p.m.  – 9.30 p.m. | Dukla Cinema, Reform Hall, Jana Masaryka 20


Mike Bonanno of the Yes Men will talk about getting more attention for activist actions through appropriate video making strategies. The Yes Men have spent the last two decades trying to keep track of the best ways to collaborate with journalists and get their stories in the news: this workshop will reveal some of the things they’ve learned over the years. The masterclass will be preceded by the screening of their last film - The Yes Men Are Revolting (91 min, dir. Laura Nix and The Yes Men, 2014).

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