The Yes Men Are Revolting documents the pranks and hoaxes perpetrated by activist duo The Yes Men. This is their third documentary, following The Yes Men and The Yes Men Fix The World. The film is directed by Laura Nix and The Yes Men themselves, Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum, who are also and really Igor Vamos and Jacques Servin. This time the duo and their supporters and fellow activists are taking on climate change, and some of those who they deem to be the biggest polluters, and therefore the worst offenders.
The Yes Men don second hand suits and take on ‘corporate criminals’, big business and government alike. They perpetrate hoaxes and pranks, impersonating officials – real and fictitious – with all manner of success. Their pranks range in size and imagination, so convincing they are mostly able to fool the media, often for days on end. The Yes Men Are Revolting documents many of these pranks, from the motivations and early planning, through to completion.
While their crusade to tackle climate change offers the context, the story behind the story is the competing identities of The Yes Men, and the competing demands, agendas, loyalties and priorities the men behind the men are facing. Trying to be themselves as well as their alter-egos is taxing, the toll primarily taken out on their relationships and other work as teaching academics, and straining their relationship with each other and The Yes Men project itself. This is equally as compelling as the activism focus, humanising The Yes Men and their efforts, and endearing them to the viewer all the more.
Fleshing out the back stories of Igor and Jacques, and how they came to be Mike and Andy, reveals they are both the children of Holocaust survivors. Jacques comments that they both grew up learning the ‘power couldn’t always be trusted’, clearly giving them a motivation and world view which drives their works. Scenes of Igor with his parents and then with his own children are a great source of contrast to the pranks.
The danger with this type of film, the political documentary, is bias: what is the other side of the story? Interests of those who The Yes Men oppose are largely only presented to serve The Yes Men agenda or for comic value. As a film making strategy it brings into question one of the basic tenets of the documentary, which is to be truthful. The concern here is that the film only offers the bare minimum of balance, and does not leave much room for the viewer to shape an opinion outside of the one being presented. Since the personal stories of Igor and Jacques tend to come to the fore this criticism doesn’t matter so much, but the viewer might like to be wary.
The Yes Men Are Revolting is very funny, mostly thanks to The Yes Men themselves, their childlike sense of wonder and enthusiasm for their pranks and their greater cause is somewhat infectious. The pranks themselves are often hilarious. The film is also heartbreaking. Seeing the plights of the individuals and communities The Yes Men visit during the course of the film, and the destruction to their environments, is distressing and a challenge to the apathetic. Despite reservations surrounding bias, this film is worthwhile viewing.