By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – What does it take to fix the world? Two activists Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonnano tried to fix the world from its endemic defects in the documentary film The Yes Men Fix the World (2009).
Given the current global crisis that the present “free market” ideology has caused, fixing the world is not as easy as doing what is right, according to Bichlbaum and Bonnano. In the film, they misrepresented big companies and even the United States government in corporate events and also in front of millions of viewers of no less than the BBC itself. They made satirical pronouncements in favor of the people’s welfare or simply made a fool out of their audiences to drive the point that people are being duped not just by big private companies but also by their very own governments.
We are lucky that the multi-awarded film graced the Philippine cinema in the 1st Agitprop International Film Festival on People’s Struggle from July 2 to 4 at the UP Film Institute’s Cine Adarna. The said film festival also featured acclaimed and equally significant films.
The documentary is a rare specie. No one would have thought that fixing the world would be this fun. Yet, their pranks, no matter how obviously funny they are, do not seem so easy to do. It takes a lot of courage to do it, let alone film it. They poured in a lot of creativity, effort and time in every prank they pulled. Not to mention how rigorous they were in the details of their preparation, as seen in the film.
The footages used are combinations of shots from hidden video cameras and Yes Men’s crew pretending to be documenting their speeches as they misrepresented companies, and, at some point, the government.
They also filmed interviews with so-called “free market” experts, where they would be caught admitting that such ideology simply serves the interest of big companies. Of course, the Yes Men, gifted with an enormous sense of humor, never failed to make fun of them from the backdrops used in their interviews to Bichlbaum and Bonnano’s facial expressions that seemingly mocked their interviewees.
In the film, one of Yes Men’s biggest breaks was when BBC interviewed Bichlbaum – who pretended to be a representative of Dow Chemicals – on their take on the 20th year anniversary of the Bhopal disaster in India, considered as one of the worst industrial catastrophes ever. Methyl isocyanate gas and other chemicals leaked from the plant, resulting to deaths and irreversible effects on the health of the people who were exposed, including those who were being conceived at that time.
Dow Chemical bought Union Carbibe in 2001 but no payments were made for the damages the company caused on the people of India. And so, in the BBC interview, Bichlbaum announced that they would be paying the people who were affected by the Bhopal disaster and that their company would also be shouldering the expenses of rehabilitating the vicinity and its surrounding communities where the gas leak took place.
Naturally, the BBC soon discovered the hoax. And one could not be blamed for thinking whatever happened to the researchers and crew of the news program. On the other end of it, Dow’s stock value decreased by $2 billion.
On the lighter side, the Yes Men were also behind publishing an exact copy of the The New York Times. The only difference is that it came out with reports, which the Yes Men presumed, the people would like to read on the paper. Their New York Times headline read that the war on Iraq has ended. The inside pages, too, contained happy and good news, that, true enough, painted smiles on their faces.
They were caught in most of their pranks, of course. And that is actually where the thrill and excitement lie. It is also amusing to see the funny expressions of their audience, which were caught by the hidden cameras.
The Yes Men Fix the World is a success in exposing how executives of giant corporations threaten the general welfare of people around the world for the sake of super profits. But no matter what they did, the Yes Men admitted in their film that it would take more than two people to resolve the endemic problems that the whole world is in.