Nix, Bichlbaum, Bonanno: The Yes Men are Revolting


It’s not every day that a documentary makes me cry with laughter, I cherished the moment!

For 20 years the social activist duo The Yes Men have performed their happenings around the world. The Yes Men are Revolting is their third film coming after The Yes Men (2003) and The Yes Men Fix the World (2009). I haven’t seen the two previous films, so I wont be able to relate, which I think is not necessarily neither, the third film stands very well alone. This time they have gotten help from a friend, producer and director Laura Nix, and the result is a film that, with success, gets closer to the real life persons behind the activists.

The Yes Men, Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, do brilliant stunts when they go after big corporations or organisations by turning their own “weapons” against them: suits, business cards, press conference, PR, communication and media strategies and sweet rhetoric. They create fake websites (for example Yes, Bush Can, the fake 2004 George W. Bush campaign) or press conferences and act as spokespersons announcing false positive news, surprisingly green or social politics, on behalf of the targeted company. When the hoax is revealed, it is a great story for the medias and all there is left to do for the company is damage control and eventually make concessions. It’s not just for the awareness of the cause, the Yes Men can do real harm to their prey as was the case in the 2004 hoax linked to the Bhopal disaster (India 1984, considered the worlds worst industrial disaster, thousands of dead after gas and chemical leaks) where Andy Bichlbaum, posing as spokesperson for Dow Chemicals, announced huge compensations to victims live on BBC! (See the clip here ). In less than 25 minutes the company had lost billions of dollars due to falling share prices (and BBC’s reputation suffered as well). They call it “Identity Correction” defined as: Impersonating big-time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them, and otherwise giving journalists excuses to cover important issues (from the Yes Men Website).

In the film they are tuning in on the issue of climate change. We see them in front of the UN with their survivaballs (picture), amongst Occupy Wall Street and working a stunt at COP15 in Copenhagen. We should be freaking out but instead we are celebrating the melting arctic as a business opportunity! they note (well hello Hillary Clinton and Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time Lene Espersen, bonding in Greenland), before going after Shell who’s planning to drill the arctic and pair up with Russian Gazprom.

I’m not going to reveal the plot of the last great stunt in the film, but let’s just say that it involves a bunch of defence contractors dancing hand in hand in a circle not fully realizing that they are singing to the praise of the total of Americas energy production turning green and being handed over to native Americans as a second Thanksgiving! It is very very funny.

But we also get behind the scene, in the control room where strategy is laid and even the storage where they keep all the props and costumes. We meet Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos, as the Yes Men are called in private, and address the questions like how do you reconcile high-level activism with family life and how do you pay your bills?

Laura Nix and The Yes Men have made a sympathetic and entertaining film about the duo and their, often highly visual, actions. But the light and entertaining form doesn’t mean that it’s not about serious business. Besides being a study in the art of ultramodern activism, it is also very effective and instructive in highlighting the power of the oil industry and its lobbyists, the number one obstacle on the way to finding solutions to fight climate change.

The Yes Men will be in Denmark themselves during CPH:DOX participating in various events. Somebody should ask them if they could help us with the Dong scandal (last year the Danish government sold a fifth of the shares of the public energy company DONG to Goldman Sachs under obscure circumstances and at a ridiculously low price) – maybe there is material for a fourth film…

Absolutely, yes to The Yes Men!

Laura Nix, Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno: The Yes Men are Revolting (2014, 91 min.)

Photo: Nate Igor Smith


Danish premiere at CPH:DOX November 7th.

See the program here:

For more on The Yes Men:

Five pen heads from me, the last one for laughing out loud…

Share your love
Sara Thelle
Sara Thelle
Articles: 39