Pin It
Favorite

Just Say Yes 

by Ed Symkus


A few years back, a film called American Movie: The Making of "Northwestern" hit the festival and art house circuit, calling attention to itself in that it was something new. Unlike films such as Best in Show, a fake documentary that looked real, American Movie was a real documentary that everyone thought was fake, due to the bizarre subject matter -- an unusually dysfunctional fellow who was hell bent on making a low-budget horror film.


Of the three people with a directing credit on The Yes Men, Chris Smith directed American Movie, Sarah Price was a producer and Dan Ollman was a production assistant. And again, the subject matter and the things the film's protagonists do are very real. It's just so outrageous, in a goofy/political sort of way, it's hard to believe no one on the screen is catching on.


This is a film that puts a spotlight on pranksterism, if there's such a word. It's about the comically subversive activities of two fellows: Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, a couple of ... hmmm, performance artists sounds right. Their mission over the past few years (the earliest scenes were shot in 2001) has been to practice counter-globalization tactics -- with humor.


These two guys, and whoever else is in their organization, developed a Web site with a homepage that looks a lot like the homepage on the World Trade Organization Web site. You know, the WTO, the mysterious and powerful international body that practices and celebrates the worldwide spread of commercial interests.


Well, Mike and Andy and friends think the WTO is a bunch of bad guys, and because it's very easy to mistake their Web site for the real thing, there are some inattentive groups and organizations out there who, upon finding out there are "WTO" representatives who would gladly speak at their conventions, happily take them up on their offer.


So off go Andy and Mike, with razor-sharp lectures in tow, ready to spring them on unsuspecting people. They play everything totally straight, yet manage to make major mockery of the WTO. Astoundingly, no one gets it. When they head off to a "Textiles of the Future" trade meeting in Finland, under fake names, Mike helps run things, while Andy gives a rousing Power Point presentation that involves the wearing of a very special gold suit that would have made both Elvis and Johnny Wadd proud.


These guys are funny and shocking and ever-ready to be written about in the mainstream press, as long as it looks like they're making fools of the WTO. Because they often leave the country to carry on their work, they're often speaking to audiences who might just not be sure what they're hearing. For instance, who in Europe, aside from historians, would understand the satirical irony of someone describing the American Civil War as "unprofitable," followed by a discussion of the "merits of slavery"?


Then again, who, in a U.S. college crowd ready for a WTO lecture, would even blink when a speaker goes on in great detail about how money can be saved by recycling food, and that hamburgers can be recycled 10 times -- all of this accompanied by graphic (and hysterically funny) video. Actually, in that case, quite a bit of blinking, and more, was going on.


Bichlbaum and Bonanno, if those are even their real names, are very serious about all of this, but there's a big sense of mischief all around them. And they're not alone in spreading their word. In an interesting sidelight, they're partially funded by the quite hip education-, arts-, and environment-friendly Herb Alpert Foundation.





Publication date: 11/11/04

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • In Defense of Refugees
  • In Defense of Refugees

    In the aftermath of the presidential election, local residents seek ways to love and support their refugee friends
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • No License to Kill
  • No License to Kill

    Task force says officers should be held responsible for police shootings; plus, state auditor clears Spokane Valley firing of city manager
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • Trumped-up Education
  • Trumped-up Education

    Could the President-elect's support of school choice trickle down to Spokane?
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon
Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science

Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through Jan. 6

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Ed Symkus

  • Ode to <i>Joy</i>-less
  • Ode to Joy-less

    This reviewer really, really doesn't like Jennifer Lawrence
    • Dec 23, 2015
  • Winning Reboot
  • Winning Reboot

    Somehow, Arnold's return to the Terminator franchise makes for solid sci-fi
    • Jul 1, 2015
  • Dog of a Story
  • Dog of a Story

    Max wastes a promising idea on forgettable characters
    • Jun 24, 2015
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Unfinished Business

    Isaiah Wall wants to get his life on track. But first, he's gotta buy drugs for the police
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • This Isn't Normal

    America has gone down this road before, and it's a dead end
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Briefs


green zone


marijuana


trail mix


election 2016


Readers also liked…

  • In the Spotlight
  • In the Spotlight

    Do you have the right to project your slogan on someone else's wall?
    • Apr 29, 2015
  • Deaths in the Family
  • Deaths in the Family

    Students, teachers and administrators are grieving after five suicides in Spokane schools — and uniting to find a solution
    • May 13, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation