Talking Movies: ‘The Yes Men are Revolting’ takes on climate change

The Yes Men are Revolting

FilmScene — Opening Friday, June 26, see website for times

Film is only one weapon in the arsenal of the artist-activists behind The Yes Men series. Laura Nix’s documentary The Yes Men Are Revolting continues this tradition, with the focus this time being global climate change. By documenting actions, events and travel, the political activists that are the film’s subject poke fun at the status quo’s unbelievable disregard for crucial political issues surrounding the environment.

The best political satire, of course, just lets its targets speaks for themselves. Good satire uses context to reveal the absurdity of the opposition’s claims, and allows the powerful to indict themselves by inviting viewers to stop and truly listen to the platitudes and code words that pass for policy discourse. The “Yes Men” are artists, pranksters, activists and satirists whose real names may or may not be Mike Bonnano and Andy Bichlbaum, and through this latest film, they effectively illustrate that “climate skeptics” and “energy interests” are just code words for the Maldives being underwater in 10 years.

The people and organizations that the Yes Men target are huge: the Obama administration, the Keystone Pipeline, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and even the UN. The Yes Men are Revolting demonstrates how of these institutions function and survive in much the same way: by encouraging the public to ignore obvious contradictions, excuses for inaction and various absurdities in their approach to climate policy.

In order to expose their targets, the Yes Men do things like rent a room at the National Press Corps in D.C, invite the press, then impersonate the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They also remember to print some fake business cards, (because that’s what matters most to these people), make an announcement totally contradicting everything that the Chamber has ever said about climate policy, let the lazy and sycophantic mainstream press pick it up as real news, then sit back watch the chaos ensue.

Their schtick is funny, if predictable, and forces us to ask important questions about whether performance is acceptable as activism. Even if what you are doing will likely make no difference, is there a point to continuing to do it? Does the fun of artistic protest make that protest more politically effective or simply easier for those in power to ignore? All of these questions are be posed, if not answered by the latest Yes Men film.

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