Last month I tipped my virtual hat to the Yes Men, talking about how much I enjoy hearing reports about their brand of agitprop comedy. I was, therefore, delighted to discover that Grand Rapids Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts would be screening the 2003 documentary The Yes Men Movie.
We managed to see it on Thursday night, accompanied by Kate and Nathan, and it was quite a ride. Following the group from their origins back in 1999, through their early stunts and up to their announcement of the closure of the WTO, it was a very personal telling of their story. The production quality was generally pretty low, with footage largely coming from handheld cameras which often had to be hidden from watchful security guards. Those coming into the film without an understanding of the ills of global trade that the Yes Men are trying to draw attention to won’t find all that much exposition, but I would guess it would still be both entertaining and thought provoking.
Those thoughts extend well beyond the humanity-deficit of global institutions. The Yes Men’s concept of ‘identity correction’ is both a creative development of deconstructionism and a radical question about the artifices we build all too readily, and their creative humour and grasp of satire have a power to remind viewers of the lack of creativity in day-to-day life. The film is unlikely to appeal to those who don’t share The Yes Men’s political bias, but it has much to say to us all.